Mattis: 'Self-Defense' Attack Doesn't Mean US Getting Into Syrian Civil War

Pauline Gross
February 12, 2018

On Wednesday, the US-led coalition said it carried out several "defensive" airstrikes on Syrian forces in Deir EzZor province in retaliation for what they described as an "unprovoked" attack on the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and foreign military "advisers" who are backed by US.

The official says the strikes were in self-defence after the pro-government forces began firing artillery and tank rounds at the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

According to the coalition statement, an estimated 500 regime troops carried out the initial attack using Russian-made tanks "in what appears to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces", a United States military official told CNN.

USA military officials said the attacks, which began late on Wednesday, were conducted to "repel acts of aggression".

The exchange took place 5 miles east of the established Euphrates River de-confliction line, where the pro-regime forces had advanced "likely to seize oilfields in Khusham", a US official told Reuters.

The Syrian government has described as brutal the attack of the USA -led International Coalition against the popular militias facing terrorist groups in Deir Ezzor province, televised media reported today.

American troops look out toward the border with Turkey from a small outpost near the town of Manbij, northern Syria, Feb. 7, 2018. The Kremlin has used contractors, or mercenaries, extensively to provide plausible deniability that Russian forces are involved in overseas conflicts when they in fact are.

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The official speculated that the pro-regime forces "were likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for Daesh [ISIS] from 2014 to 2017".

"It was self-defense. Obviously, we are not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war", Mattis said. Any of the attacking vehicles and personnel who turned around and headed back west were not targeted, the military official said.

In June 2017, a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 that had attacked Syrian Democratic Forces. One SDF member was injured.

According to another official speaking to CNN, the US-backed Coalition was "in regular communication" with Russian military forces in the area.

The incident marks one of a limited number of times in which the United States has struck out directly at forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

According to Russia's top diplomat, the USA has reneged on its assurances that the only goal of its presence in Syria "without an invitation from the legitimate government" is to defeat ISIS.

Other reports by GizPress

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