Syrian, Iraqi forces say US bombs border military positions, US denies


After a strike by the Syrian Air Force in Damascus, January 2013 – REUTERS / Goran Tomasevic

CAIRO – June 19, 2018: Syrian state media reported on Monday that planes from the US-led coalition bombed a Syrian army position near the Iraqi border, killing and injuring people, but the US military has denied being responsible.

The attack took place in al-Harra, southeast of the city of Albu Kamal, the state-run SANA news agency said, citing a military source. SANA said the attack caused an unknown number of deaths and injuries.

An alliance commander fighting alongside Damascus told Reuters that “possibly American” drones bombed Iraqi faction positions between Albu Kamal and Tanf, as well as Syrian military positions.

The commander, who is not Syrian and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the strike killed and injured Iraqi fighters, but gave no figures.

The Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, a group of mainly Iranian-backed Shiite paramilitaries, said a US airstrike on the Iraqi border with Syria killed 22 of its operatives and injured 12 others.

“At 10:00 p.m. last night, an American plane struck a fixed headquarters of the 45th and 46th Brigades of the Popular Mobilization Forces defending the border strip with Syria, using two guided missiles which caused the martyrdom of 22 fighters.” , he said in a statement. .

He demanded an explanation from the United States.

An Iraqi army statement later said that no Popular Mobilization Force or other Iraqi troops tasked with securing the Iraqi-Syrian border had been affected by the airstrike, and that it had taken place in the area. interior of Syria.

“No member of the US-led coalition has carried out strikes near Albu Kamal,” US Central Command spokesman Major Josh Jacques told Reuters.

The US-led coalition uses air power and special forces to support an alliance of Syrian Arab and Kurdish militias fighting the Islamic State northeast of Albu Kamal. US forces are also based around the Tanf crossing point, southwest of the city in the Syrian desert, near the borders of Iraq and Jordan.

President Bashar al-Assad’s army, with the help of Iranian-backed militias including Hezbollah and Iraqi groups, drove the Islamic State out of Albu Kamal and its environs last year, but jihadists have since staged attacks there.

The Popular Mobilization Forces have been officially included in the Iraqi government forces, but many of them remain loyal to their former leaders and political groups. They said the affected base was 700 meters from Syrian territory and that the Syrian government was aware of their presence.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US military feared the Popular Mobilization Forces could retaliate against US forces in Iraq. The official said the Pentagon was doing everything possible to state publicly that it was not involved in the strike to minimize the risk of retaliation.

The United States has approximately 5,200 troops in Iraq who are part of a coalition fighting Islamic State militants.

“OCCUPATION FORCES”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said unidentified planes struck Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah and other allied foreign militias around Albu Kamal.

The UK-based Observatory said the strikes left 52 people dead. Reuters was unable to independently verify the Observatory’s casualty report.

Asked about the reported airstrikes, an IDF spokeswoman said, “We do not comment on foreign reports.

Throughout the seven-year war in Syria, Israel has carried out dozens of strikes in the neighboring country against what it describes as Hezbollah or Iranian targets.

Israel, alarmed by the weight of sworn enemies Iran and Hezbollah, lobbied Russia, Assad’s other key ally, to ensure Tehran does not strengthen its military influence in Syria.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet he had “reiterated and clarified” his Syrian policy during weekend phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“First of all, Iran must get rid of all of Syria,” Netanyahu said on Sunday, according to a statement from his office. “Second, we will take action, and are already taking action, against the attempted military entrenchment of Iran and its proxies, both near the border and deep within Syria.”

In an interview last week, Assad called Hezbollah a “staple” in the war and said “the need for these military forces will continue for a long time.”

He said the United States was an occupying power in Syria and that his state supported “any act of resistance, whether against terrorists or against the occupying forces, regardless of their nationality.”


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