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Russia: US strikes on pro-regime forces in Syria 'totally unacceptable'
19 May 2017, 11:16 | Terri Saunders
Coalition warplanes targeted a convoy of Syrian government forces and Iranian-backed militia close to the Iraq border on Thursday.
The coalition said the strike came after unsuccessful "Russian attempts to dissuade Syrian pro-regime movement" as well as "a coalition aircraft show of force, and the firing of warning shots".
USA forces spotted a convoy of vehicles, bulldozers and tanks moving toward the garrison at al-Tanf near the Jordanian and Iraqi borders early Friday, and watched as the group stopped within 20 miles of the outpost and began digging defensive positions.
Al-Tanf, which Russian warplanes bombed a year ago, is now occupied by U.S. and British Special Forces that are advising an anti-ISIS Syrian rebel group known as Maghawir al-Thawra, or the Commandos of the Revolution.
"We're not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war, but we will defend our troops, and that is a coalition element made up of more than just USA troops, and so we'll defend ourselves", Mattis told reporters prior to a meeting with the Swedish defense minister.
A military source on the Syrian government side said the airstrike had hit "one of our military points", without elaborating, Syrian state TV reported.
One official says the pro-regime forces had entered a so-called "de-confliction" zone without authorization and were perceived as a threat to US -allied troops there.
According to Jacques, while the US hit a Syrian tank and two bulldozers, the convoy has still not fully retreated from the deconfliction zone.
Last June, Russian aircraft also struck the base twice within several hours, the second time after being warned by the US that it was a base used by coalition forces.
There was no immediate response from the US -led coalition following the reports.
According to a U.S. defense official, a convoy of 20 pro-regime vehicles was headed toward al-Tanf, a military base on the Syrian-Jordanian border, on Wednesday night.
The first official said the convoy was "significant" in size, but only the lead vehicles were hit. "The agreed upon de-confliction zone agreement remains in effect".
Muzahem al-Saloum, from the Maghaweer al-Thawra group, told Reuters that the jets struck after rebel forces clashed with advancing Syrian and Iranian militias that were about 27km from the base. Last month, the U.S.
-Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and Lolita Baldor in Washington.
"They (Assad and Fayad) explored the prospect of direct cooperation soon between the Syrian and Iraqi armies to fight terrorism collectively", SANA said.
"There is no change in policy", the official said, according to Smith. There is a new government offensive underway in the country's east, in an area where U.S-backed rebels are also fighting against IS.
Russian Federation has condemned a series of U.S. coalition airstrikes on a military convoy allied with President Bashar al-Assad in Syria as "totally unacceptable".
Thursday's announcement of the talks-within-talks among constitutional experts appear to be the only development so far in the sixth round of largely unproductive discussions that have been hosted by United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura since early 2016.
The reports gave different death tolls for the IS attack on the village of Aqarab al-Safiyeh in central Syria.
State news agency SANA says 20 civilians were killed after IS militants stormed parts of the village and that 45 were wounded.
The head of the National Hospital in Salamiyeh, Dr. Noufal Safar, said the hospital received 52 bodies, including 11 women and 17 children. Most of the residents belong to the Ismaili branch of Shiite Islam.
De Mistura's separate meetings with Syrian opposition and government representatives have yielded little outcome after four days of talks.
"Any military actions that lead to a deterioration in the situation in Syria obviously impact the political process", he said. US -backed and Kurdish-led forces are meanwhile marching toward the extremists' de-facto capital of Raqqa, in northern Syria.
"Again and again we see the desire and confirmation of this desire as for the deployment of oppositionists and some extremists, including from Jabhat al-Nusra, to fight against the legitimate government of Syria", Lavrov said commenting on the U.S. strike.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS captured several army positions in the area and killed nine troops. It said troops launched a counteroffensive under the cover of airstrikes.
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