US says Iran directed convoy targeted by US air strike in Syria

The Latest: Syria talks on constitutional issues begin

The United States launched an airstrike against pro-Syrian forces who advanced inside a "de-conflicted zone" Thursday even though Russian Federation urged them not to, the US -led coalition said.

"The so-called global coalition carried out Thursday an aggression against one of our military points that resulted in a number of martyrs and material damage", an unnamed army official said, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

US-led coalition aircraft bombed forces allied to the Syrian government on Thursday night, after they advanced too close to a base where Western special forces are training rebel fighters.

The strike was the first such close confrontation between US forces and fighters backing President Bashar Assad and the development is likely to increase tensions in the war-torn country.

"The Syrian Arab Army is fighting terrorism on its territory, and no party has the right to determine the course of its operations", the source said.

The US-backed forces in that area are fighting against Daesh militants. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes killed eight people - "most of them non-Syrian" - and destroyed four vehicles.

The airstrike occurred after a convoy of pro-Assad militia forces appeared to be headed toward at-Tanf, a town located near Syria's southeastern border with Iraq, according to the USA official.

The Syrian military official said the area hit was a military position along the Tanf highway.

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It appeared the convoy had moved into the area against the advice of the Russians, Mattis said.

Strike is seen as defense and not signaling a switch in the United States strategy in Syria from fighting ISIS to fighting the Assad regime.

A US Pentagon official backed Mr Mattis and said the attack on forces did not reflect an escalation.

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

The Syrian army had been sending reinforcements in the last few weeks to the desert region near its border with Iraq and Jordan.

Several hundred US advisers are in Syria to help train and organize a loose network of opposition groups, called the Syrian Democratic Forces, to defeat ISIS.

A convoy of 20 pro-regime vehicles were headed toward At Tanf Wednesday night, searching vehicles and buildings along the way, according to a USA official. He was asked if the airstrike increases the USA role in the Syrian war. "The agreed upon de-confliction zone agreement remains in effect", it added. In April U.S. President Donald Trump ordered cruise missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Damascus.

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