Syria accuses US of striking regime positions in country’s east

12 fighters said killed; Washington denies knowledge of reported coalition attack on bases near frontline with Islamic State

Illustrative image of a US F-18 fighter jet flies over the USS George H.W. Bush as the vessel travels toward the Strait of Hormuz on March 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
Illustrative image of a US F-18 fighter jet flies over the USS George H.W. Bush as the vessel travels toward the Strait of Hormuz on March 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

Syrian state media reported Thursday that an early morning airstrike by the US-led coalition hit several regime military positions in the country’s east.

“Some of our military positions between Abu Kamal and Hmeimeh were hit this morning in an aggression by American coalition warplanes,” said a military source quoted by state news agency SANA.

Although the source said the attack only caused “material damage,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 12 pro-regime fighters were killed.

“At least three vehicles were destroyed by the strike,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. He said that the 12 pro-regime fighters killed in the incident were not Syrians but he could not provide more details on their identity.

A military source from forces allied to Syria’s government told AFP that there were fatalities in the attack, but said, “There are no Iranian or Lebanese fighters among the dead.”

He said the strikes had targeted two regime military positions near a frontline with IS.

“Daesh then launched an attack on the positions. The strikes and attack left a number of Syrian fighters dead and caused material damage,” the source said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, said, “We have no information to substantiate those reports.”

A media unit run by the Syria-allied Hezbollah terror group said the strikes were near T2 (Al Mahattah ath Thaniyah), an oil-pumping station some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Iraqi border, Arabic media reported.

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Abu Kamal and Hmeimeh lie in Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province, where Russian-backed Syrian troops and the US-led coalition have been waging separate offensives against the Islamic State group.

A “de-confliction” line in place since last year is meant to keep the two assaults from crashing into each other, and runs along the Euphrates River.

Regime troops are present west of the river while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are on the east.

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), trained by the US-led coalition, participate in the graduation ceremony of their first regiment in al-Kasrah, in the suburb of eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, on May 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Delil Souleiman)

The coalition has carried out several deadly strikes against Syrian government forces and allied fighters in recent months.

In February, coalition bombing raids in Deir Ezzor province killed at least 100 regime and allied fighters, including Russian nationals, in retaliation for an attack on SDF positions.

And in September 2016, US-led strikes on regime military positions in the east left more than 60 Syrian troops dead. The coalition later said it had mistaken the fighters for IS jihadists.

There was no immediate comment on Thursday from either the US-led coalition or the SDF, which are fighting to clear IS from a final series of villages on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

IS overran swaths of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, but separate offensives across both countries have seen its grip on territory shrink dramatically.

On Monday, Syrian troops and allied forces ousted IS from the last districts it held in the capital Damascus.

After a fierce month-long battle, an evacuation deal saw the remaining diehard jihadists bused out of the city toward small pockets of land still held by IS in Syria’s Badiya.

The Badiya is the vast desert stretching from the country’s center to its eastern border with Iraq.

The day after the transfer, IS fighters in the Badiya launched an attack on a nearby government position, leaving more than two dozen Syrian troops and allied fighters dead.

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