International Desk: The US military has carried out an air strike against a convoy of Syrian pro-government fighters who posed a threat to US-backed forces in the country's south near the Jordan border.
A US official said on Thursday the attack near the town of At Tanf destroyed at least one tank and a bulldozer, while another official said they followed warning shots by US aircraft meant to dissuade the fighters from advancing further.
The United States is not deepening its role in Syria's civil war but will act defensively when needed, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday.
"No. We are 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 US troops, and so we will defend ourselves [if] people take aggressive steps against us," Mattis said when asked about the strike.
However, the Al Tanf attack raises questions about the ongoing feasibility for the US-led coalition to maintain its singular focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Syria's civil war began in 2011 after mass protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad and has killed hundreds of thousands of people, driven half the country's population from their homes and dragged in world powers.
The Syrian Observervatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said eight fighters non-Syrian fighters were killed in the US attack.
The SOHR statement appeared to confirm a statement by an official from a US-backed Syrian rebel group who told a news agency that the convoy comprised Syrian and Iranian militia members.
According to Western intelligence and rebels commanders quoted by Reuters, the Syrian army is seeking to retake the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway, which has been used in the past to smuggle Iranian weapons into Syria.
Risingbd/May 19, 2017/Mukul