Pentagon warns Assad regime to avoid action near U.S. and allied forces


22 August, 2016

The unprecedented strikes against six Kurdish positions in the northeastern city prompted the US-led coalition to scramble aircraft to protect USA special operations forces advisers deployed with the Kurdish forces.

On Friday, warplanes from the US-led coalition flew what the Pentagon called protective patrols around Hasaka to prevent Syrian jets from targeting United States special forces, who are operating on the ground with the SDF, the first sorties of their kind in the war.

Additional combat air patrols have been sent to the area in order to protect the ground forces. "We will ensure their safety and the Syrian regime would be well-advised not to do things that place them at risk", he said, stressing that the USA has the "inherent right of self-defense".

This week's fighting in Hasaka, which is divided into zones of Kurdish and Syrian government control, marks the most violent confrontation between the YPG and Damascus in more than five years of civil war, YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said.

Since Wednesday, clashes between the two forces have rocked the city, leaving 23 civilians - including nine children - and 16 combattants dead, the Observatory said.

When the bombing began, coalition forces on the ground tried to call the Syrian aircraft on a common radio channel, but there was no response, according to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.

He told reporters the USA had warned Syria via its communication channel with Russian Federation that it would defend coalition troops, adding the Syrian airstrikes "did not directly impact our forces" but they were "close enough that it gives us great pause".

When government forces pulled away from Kurdish regions to concentrate on fighting rebels elsewhere in mid-2012, control was quickly taken by Kurdish militias directed by the YPG.

"This is very unusual, we have not seen the regime take this kind of action against YPG before", Davis said, using an acronym for the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

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In response to the strikes, USA military officials contacted their Russian counterparts also operating in Syria, who offered their assurances that their planes weren't operating in the area.

Karns said that no weapons were fired by coalition fighter jets.

"And, we continue to monitor airspace in proximity to our forces", he added.

British special forces units were photographed near al-Tanf in June, as NSA fighters continued efforts to push Isis back from a strategic base and the borders with Iraq and Jordan.

Hassakeh is largely under the control of a Kurdish militia, the YPG.

U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment of up to 300 U.S. special operations forces to Syria to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces.

It was the closest USA forces have come to an attack by Syrian forces, Davis said. The Syrian and Russian air forces are routinely deployed in the war in western Syria. Xelil said dozens of civilians had been killed over the past two days.

More than 250,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Syria since the civil war began in March 2011.

Russia's Defense Ministry says the Serpukhov and the Zeleny Dol corvettes launched three long-range Kalibr cruise missiles on Friday at Syria's al-Qaida branch, formerly known as the Nusra Front.

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