USA airstrike repels attack by Syrian regime-backed troops

US-Led Coalition Forces Strike 'Syrian Pro-Regime' Forces

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis dismissed concerns on Thursday that the United States was being dragged into a broader conflict in Syria, after a major clash with pro-Syrian government forces overnight that may have left 100 or more of them dead.

It's a rare strike against forces that support Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

The Russian military says a USA strike on government-backed troops in eastern Syria reflects Washington's efforts to make a grab for the nation's economic assets. CENTCOM reports that no Americans were injured as they engaged roughly 500 attacking troops, as well as tanks and artillery.

The Defense Ministry charged that the American aim in Syria was "capture and retention of economic assets".

"I am gravely concerned that the Trump administration is purposefully stumbling into a broader conflict, without a vote of Congress or clear objectives", Kaine said.

"Now they say that their presence will continue until they are convinced that a stable political settlement process, leading to regime change, has begun in Syria", he said.

Neither U.S. officials nor the U.S. -backed coalition have offered details on the identity of attacking forces.

Assad has vowed to recover every inch of Syria from those he calls "terrorists" - but the USA has repeatedly indicated that it's not about to give up its alliance with the SDF.

The U.S. -led coalition had alerted Russian officials about the presence of SDF forces, the U.S. official said.

While no US troops were reportedly killed, according to NBC News, Syrian state-run media said dozens died or were wounded.

Syrian state media said the US -led coalition bombing left dozens killed and wounded. "We demand (that the worldwide community) condemn this massacre and hold the coalition responsible for it".

Some 500 pro-regime troops carried out the attack using artillery, mortar fire and Russian-made tanks "in what appears to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces", US Army Col. Thomas Veale, a spokesman for the US-led coalition told CNN.

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The Euphates river Valley has been a sort of boundary demarcating both forces, with the SDF controlling east of the river while the government controls west.

The Syrian civil war, now entering its eighth year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes, while drawing in regional countries and global powers supporting client factions on the ground.

The advancing forces were intending to seize nearby oilfields that the US-backed rebels captured from IS previous year, Veale said.

Still, these episodes have been sporadic.

The SDF is a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters led by the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG). There was no immediate reaction from Washington over Moscow's allegation.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told a news briefing that Washington was not "looking for a conflict with the regime".

The air raids coincided with escalating violence elsewhere in Syria. Russian Federation said the proposal was a non-starter. A United States official said that "20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters" of the SDF headquarters.

A statement said, "Coalition service members in an advise, assist, and accompany capacity were co-located with SDF partners during the attack 8km east of the agreed-upon Euphrates river de-confliction line".

"We estimate more than 100 Syrian pro-regime forces were killed while engaging SDF and coalition forces", a USA military official said on condition of anonymity.

Middle East experts said that direct fighting between Americans and Russians would represent a risky escalation in the Syrian fighting.

Russia's foreign ministry meanwhile claimed Thursday that the US airstrike on pro-Assad troops reflected Washington's attempts to seize Syrian economic assets.

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