The US coalition in Syria conducted airstrikes against pro-Assad regime forces on Wednesday, in a fresh escalation between the two sides.
In a statement released on Wednesday night, the International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve announced that its forces launched airstrikes against Assad regime forces in the Euphrates river valley area in Syria.
According to the statement, the strike came after “Syrian pro-regime forces initiated an unprovoked attack against well-established Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters on February 7.”
During the attack, “coalition service members [US troops] in an advice, assist and accompany capacity were co-located with SDF partners”, just “eight kilometres east of the agreed-upon Euphrates River de-confliction line.”
In response, the coalition “conducted strikes against attacking forces to repel the act of aggression”, the statement added. The US military command insisted that while its primary focus remains the defeat of ISIL in the middle Euphrates river valley, it at the same time “asserts its non-negotiable right to act in self defence.”
Nicholas Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told The National that the airstrikes "are in line with enforcing the Trump administration strategy for Syria" announced in December, and in reaffirming that "no area that has been seized from ISIL by the SDF will go back to Assad forces." The location of the attack "is also a message to Russia that it needs to keep Assad's forces on a tighter leash in Eastern Syria."
“The US military is telling Damascus that it better think long and hard if it wants to go after America’s partners,” Mr Heras said.
The attack took place on the same day that Israeli fighters jets struck the Jemraya research center near Damascus, according to Syrian news reports.