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.
An worldwide aid organisation warned on Friday of a "humanitarian disaster" in Eastern Ghouta caused by the major bombing campaign by the Syrian government that has impeded essential relief operations.
The only previous U.S. attack resulting in comparable bloodshed was the September 17, 2016 USA airstrike against a Syrian army position near the Deir Ezzor airport, which killed 62 soldiers and wounded some 100 more. Russian Federation said it did not have personnel in the area, and its defense ministry said it only confirmed 25 Syrian militia were wounded, and no deaths. The two warring factions have for the past year collided on multiple occasions in efforts to drive the Islamic state fighters popularly known as ISIS from their last stronghold in Syria.
In Manbij to the west on the Turkish border, another USA military official, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, was even more candid with the New York Times reporter accompanying him to the front, where the threat of a face-off with Turkey remained a possibility. Other reports from the Pentagon also indicated that there were some mercenaries from Russian Federation who also perished in the attack. "ISIL is still there, and our mission is still to defeat ISIL", Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday.
Russia's Foreign Ministry raised pointed questions about the U.S. version of events, particularly the vast disparity between the claim of 100 Syrian government troops killed and, on the other side, a total of one SDF fighter wounded.
"You can't ask Russian Federation to deconflict something they don't control", he said. Until launching the anti-ISIS campaign in 2014, Washington had sought the ouster of the government of President Bashar al-Assad by means of supporting and arming the Al Qaeda-linked militias out of which ISIS itself emerged.
"We continue to support SDF with respect to defeating ISIL..."
"We are not looking for a conflict with the regime", she added. Turkey has demanded that United States troops withdraw from that area.The commander of the US-led coalition, Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, told reporters during a visit to Manbij Wednesday that the USA had no plans to withdraw and would continue working with local forces that are opposed by Turkey.Facing attacks by pro-regime forces and threats by a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria could find it increasingly hard to help bring about the long list of objectives outlined by Tillerson last month without additional clashes that could widen the conflict. The State Department issued a statement saying that the bombings "must stop now".
The comments by Mattis came on the heel of deadly US-led coalition air strikes which killed some 100 pro-Syrian government forces.