US forces targeted the pro-government troops with airstrikes and artillery after they launched an attack against a base belonging to the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, according to military spokesman Col. Thomas Veale.
The coalition airstrikes and shelling on Syrian government loyalists came after pro-government forces "initiated an unprovoked attack" against a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) headquarters in Deir Ezzor province.
After 20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 yards of US special operations forces advising USA -backed forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US strikes began in "self-defense", the official said. "Coalition advisers were with the SDF in an advise, assist and accompany capacity, and this action was taken in self-defense".
One SDF soldier was injured, the United States officials said. The attack occurred 5 miles (8km) east of a "de-confliction" line created to separate Russian-backed government troops and US -backed forces in Syria, CNN said, citing a coalition statement. The US official said that US forces in the region counterattacked using artillery and aircraft.
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According to Liveuamap, a site that maps the conflict in Syria, the town of Khusham near Deir ez-Zor is actually held by the Syrian regime while the nearby Conoco-Tabiya gas plant is several kilometers from the line that separates the SDF from the regime. They spoke on condition of anonymity as details are still emerging on the attack. The Assad regime and its Russian backers have an established history of calling anyone who doesn't support the regime a terrorist.
He said the coalition suspected that pro-regime forces were attempting to seize territory, including lucrative oil fields, that the Syrian Democratic Forces had liberated from ISIS in September.
"Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted (enemy) attack", the official said.
Though Russia announced its forces would withdraw from Syria in December, the recent rash of renewed strikes show they have stayed put, and are likely responding to an increased need to support the Assad regime.