U.S. kills about 100 pro-Assad troops in Syria, repelling attack on allied forces

Syrian's eastern Ghouta, after a Syrian strike
(Image credit: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. killed about 100 fighters late Wednesday in Syria's eastern Deir el-Zour province, helping fend off an "unprovoked attack" on allied Syrian Defense Forces by as many as 500 attackers, U.S. military officials said Thursday. The U.S. characterized the rare strike on Syrian government-backed troops as self-defense, because U.S. troops are embedded with the SDF in the area. Syrian state-run media said the strike left "dozens of dead and wounded," with the state SANA news agency calling the U.S. actions an "aggression" and "new massacre."

One SDF fighter was wounded in the attack, which appeared to be a coordinated assault using tanks, artillery, rockets, and mortars, a U.S. official told Reuters. "We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh [Islamic State] in September 2017," the official said, suggesting President Bashar al-Assad was trying to claim oil fields that the SDF's Kurdish and Arab fighters had seized from ISIS last year. The attack by pro-Assad forces was about 5 miles east of the Euphrates River, which serves as an informal demarcation line — Assad controls the western side and the SDF controls the east.

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Peter Weber, The Week US

Peter has worked as a news and culture writer and editor at The Week since the site's launch in 2008. He covers politics, world affairs, religion and cultural currents. His journalism career began as a copy editor at a financial newswire and has included editorial positions at The New York Times Magazine, Facts on File, and Oregon State University.