White House says Russian strikes killed anti-IS operatives in south Syria, where last US-trained rebels are thought to be stationed
The US accused Russia of knowingly targeting anti-IS fighters in Syria on Friday, amid warnings from Washington that it was running out of patience with Moscow’s policy in Syria.
A White House spokesman said Russian planes had bombed “moderate opposition sites” in southern Syria, despite being told by the US that anti-IS fighters were stationed there.
Earlier in the day the New Syrian Army - a faction that is opposed to IS and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces - said in a statement that its base in al-Tanf, a village in south-eastern Syria, had suffered at least 10 strikes from Russian planes.
According to the statement, two members of the force were killed in the assault, in which internationally-prohibited cluster munitions were used.
The New Syrian Army is thought to be the last US-trained rebel group in Syria, and was deployed in al-Tanf in November 2015 to carry out a raid near Syria’s border with Jordan.
Allegations that Russian forces struck US-supported rebels in Syria came shortly after Washington warned that it was running out of patience with Moscow’s policy.
"Russia needs to understand that our patience is not infinite," Kerry said on Wednesday at the Oslo Forum. "In fact, it is very limited now.”
The US military launched a $500m programme in early 2015 to train "moderate" Syrians to fight the Islamic State group.
But the programme drew heavy criticism last autumn after the US admitted the efforts had floundered, with numbers of trainees falling far short of the planned 5,000.
One group even handed over ammunition and weaponry to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.