The unending cycle of violence that is Syria got even murkier this week with US -backed forces clashing with those of the Syrian government backed by Russian Federation and Iran in the far northeastern region, while farther to the west the USA -supported coalition was being threatened by Turkish forces. An unidentified commander fighting in the military alliance supporting President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters that seven members of the pro-government forces had been killed and 27 injured.
It was in this complex military and political environment that the pro-Assad fighters shelled a Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters about five miles east of the Euphrates in Khusham, Syria, late Wednesday.
Some US troops had been embedded at the time with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose headquarters in Syria's Deiral-Zor province had been a target of the attack.
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US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has dismissed concerns the US is being dragged into a broader conflict in Syria after a major clash with pro-Syrian government forces overnight that may have left 100 or more of them dead.
US-backed Kurdish-led forces have been competing for control of Deir el-Zour with Russian-backed Syrian troops that are reinforced by Iranian-supported militias.
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CNN also reported that HIMARS and MQ-9 drones were used in the attack.
The comments by Mattis came on the heel of deadly US-led coalition air strikes which killed some 100 pro-Syrian government forces.
This came after militants in adjacent Idlib province downed a Russian fighter jet and killed the pilot on February 3, the AP said, citing unconfirmed Turkish media reports.
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Regime forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20-30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, where some US troops were embedded, according to Pentagon press secretary Dana W. White.
The pro-government forces were "likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham" east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor province, a U.S. official said.
However, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Thursday: "That's not realistic". However, there were no casualties that have been reported from the United States military. It also said it was aware only of 25 Syrian militia members having been wounded in the United States strikes. This does, however, reflect the mission creep in Syria, as the defeat of ISIS has meant the USA forces there need a new justification to stay, and fighting the Assad government looks to be it, with the Pentagon already saying part of their pretext for staying is to ensure regime change.
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