Syria war: Russia claims US attack killed civilians


Deputy foreign minister says US attack on Wednesday killed civilians, but does not specify where the attack took place

Gennady Gatilov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, said the attack was a "breach of Syrian sovereignty" (AFP)
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Last update: 
Friday 19 May 2017 11:21 UTC

Russia has condemned a US coalition attack on Wednesday that it claims had hit civilians, Russian news agencies reported.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by state-run RIA Novosti in Geneva that the attack would not help efforts to find a political solution to the conflict.

"Such actions that were carried out against the Syrian armed forces... this is completely unacceptable, this is a breach of Syrian sovereignty," Gatilov said.

It was not specified where the attack took place. But it came a day before the US military carried out an air strike on Thursday against militia supported by the Syrian government that it said posed a threat to US forces and US-backed Syrian fighters in the country's south.

The US has not spoken about any strikes carried out by the coalition on 17 May.

This is completely unacceptable, this is a breach of Syrian sovereignty

- Gennady Gatilov, Russian deputy foreign minister

US-led warplanes hit the pro-government convoy as it headed towards a remote western-backed rebel garrison near the border with Jordan.

"On Thursday at 16:30, the so-called international coalition attacked one of the Syrian Arab Army's positions on the al-Tanf road in the Syrian Badia region, producing a number of martyrs and causing material damage," a military source told Syrian state media.

"This brazen attack by the so-called international coalition exposes the falseness of its claims to be fighting terrorism," it said.

"The Syrian Arab Army is fighting terrorism on its territory, and no party has the right to determine the course of its operations. The Syrian Arab Army will... not be intimidated by the attempts of the so-called coalition to stop it from performing its sacred duties."

US-led coalition: Convoy posed threat

The strike took place a few miles from the armed opposition rebel base in the town of al-Tanf, where American and British special forces are training rebels opposed to Bashar al-Assad.

The US-led coalition said it had struck "pro-regime forces... that posed a threat to US and partner forces."

The coalition said the strike came after unsuccessful "Russian attempts to dissuade Syrian pro-regime movement" as well as "a coalition aircraft show of force, and the firing of warning shots".

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, reported eight killed, "most of them non-Syrian". Syrian state media gave no number.

'We notified the coalition that we were being attacked by the Syrian army and Iranians at this point and the coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy'

- Muzahem al-Saloum, Maghaweer al-Thawra group

Muzahem al-Saloum, from the Maghaweer al-Thawra group, told Reuters that the jets struck after rebel forces clashed with advancing Syrian and Iranian militias that were about 27km from the base.

"We notified the coalition that we were being attacked by the Syrian army and Iranians at this point and the coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy," Saloum said.

Earlier on Thursday, pro-Iranian government media outlets had reported that 3,000 Hezbollah fighters were deployed to the al-Tanf region to protect the area from "US interests".

The US-led attack is the second on Syria since Donald Trump became president in January. Washington launched 59 missiles at a Syrian airbase after a chemical attack in Idlib province on 6 April that Western powers blamed on the Syrian government. US officials have threatened additional strikes if chemical weapons are used again.

That US attack on the Shayrat air base damaged or destroyed 20 percent of Syria's operational aircraft, as well as fuel and ammunition sites and air defence capabilities, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said at the time.