"Mistaken" US Airstrike Helps ISIS Seize Syrian Base, Threatens to Unravel Ceasefire Agreement
September 19, 2016
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Angus McDowall / Reuters
A disastrous series of US-led airstrikes -- lasting 20 minutes -- killed at least 83 Syrian troops and wounded 120 others who were defending a critical base. The US attack allowed ISIS fighters to overrun the base. The US Central Command claimed they thought the base belonged to ISIS. It does now. Russia has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting over the matter. The US-Russia ceasefire now appears to be on the brink of collapse, following the US airstrikes.
ISIS Overruns Syrian Army Base After US Bombings
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 18, 2016) -- In the defense of the Deir Ezzor Airport, the Syrian military has long depended on an army base in Jebel Tharda to repel ISIS advances. That base has been lost this weekend, after a disastrous series of US-led airstrikes killed a large number of Syrian troops defending the base, and ISIS quickly overran what was left.
For over 20 minutes, the coalition warplanes attacked the base. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack killed at least 83 Syrian troops and wounded 120 others. The US Central Command claimed they thought the base belonged to ISIS.
It does now. With the forces decimated by the US attack, ISIS quickly overran the base. Syrian state media claimed an ongoing effort to recover the site, but it does not appear to have been successful yet, as ISIS managed to shoot down a Syrian warplane, flying out of Deir Ezzor Airport, over Jebel Tharda.
The US continued attacking the Syrian troops until they were warned by Russia that they were attacking the wrong site. The US has since expressed "regret" but also condemned Russia for calling an emergency UN Security Council meeting over the matter, insisting everyone knows the US "would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit."
Protracted anti-Russia speeches by the US Ambassador ended the emergency meeting prematurely, and has led Russian officials to remark that the incident is "suspicious" and reflective of the US refusal to coordinate in the air war against ISIS.
The US and Russia had brokered a ceasefire which went into effect last week, and included the Syrian government, meaning the airstrikes were a major violation of that ceasefire. Though the ceasefire was supposed to, after seven days, give way to a new coordinated US-Russia bombing campaign, it is unclear at this point if Russia has any appetite to attempt this anymore, as US officials continue to complain that they don't trust Russia to keep up their end of the bargain.
US-led Jets Kill Dozens of
Syrian Soldiers: Russia, Monitor
Angus McDowall / Reuters
(September 17, 2016) -- US-led coalition jets bombed a Syrian army position at Jebel Tharda near Deir al-Zor airport on Saturday, killing dozens of Syrian soldiers, Russia and a war monitor said, paving the way for Islamic State to briefly overrun it.
The US military, in an apparent admission that it may have hit the position, said in a statement that coalition air strikes near Deir al-Zor had been halted when Russia told coalition officials they may have hit the Syrian army.
Syria's army general command said in a statement that the air strike was "conclusive evidence" of US support for Islamic State, noting that the strike was "dangerous and blatant aggression".
Islamic State said in a statement on its Amaq news channel that it had gained "complete control" over Jebel Tharda but both Syrian state television and Russian state media said the positions lost to the militant group were later recaptured.
The defense ministry in Russia, which has been aiding Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war, said US jets had killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in four air strikes by two F-16s and two A-10s coming from the direction of Iraq.
"Syria is a complex situation with various military forces and militias in close proximity, but coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit," US officials said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group with contacts across the country, cited a military source at Deir al-Zor airport as saying that at least 80 Syrian soldiers had been killed in the strike.
Russia's Defence Ministry said that if the coalition bombing was a mistake, it was evidence of Washington's "stubborn refusal" to coordinate its actions with Russia's government.
The US-led coalition has been conducting air strikes against Islamic State since September 2014 and is also supporting rebels against Assad elsewhere in Syria.
The Observatory said that Russian jets had been conducting bombing in the area at the same time, and that violent clashes took place afterwards between Islamic State and the Syrian army around the position.
Syria's army controls Deir al-Zor airport and parts of the city which are otherwise entirely surrounded by territory held by Islamic State.
The United States and Russia agreed a deal on Syria last week, involving a ceasefire which came into effect on Monday, aid deliveries to besieged areas and eventual joint targeting of militant jihadist groups if the truce works out.
Syria's war between Assad and rebels seeking to topple him has drawn in regional and global powers and allowed militant jihadist groups including Islamic State to gain territory and inspire attacks.
Syrian Ceasefire on Brink of Collapse After US Airstrikes
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 18, 2016) -- After going into effect Monday and providing one of the calmest five-day spans of the entire Syria Civil War, the US-Russia brokered ceasefire now appears to be on the brink of collapse, following US airstrikes on Saturday and subsequent Syrian airstrikes against rebels in the far south of the country.
While the US and Russia had been trading charges of "violations" all week, despite the calm, the Saturday US airstrikes in Deir Ezzor were the largest incident by far, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting that at least 83 Syrian troops were killed, and 120 others wounded.
Syrian military officials accused the US of launching the attacks to "benefit ISIS," who overran the bombed army base not long thereafter. Russia called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, a meeting which itself rapidly turned into a fiasco as US officials loudly condemned Russia for calling it.
On Sunday, Syrian forces bombed rebel sites in the southern Daraa Province, killing at least nine civilians according to the Observatory, who noted it was the single deadliest incident against civilian targets since the ceasefire began. The southern rebels are largely US-backed, and it was probably not a coincidence that they were targeted.
Still, Russia warns that the city of Aleppo is the most dangerous site, with the Nusra Front shelling Syrian military targets in the area. Nusra is not a party to the ceasefire, but one of the terms required the Syrian government not to engage them without US permission.
Russian and US military officials are scheduled to meet Monday on possible coordinated attacks against Nusra, but tensions are on the rise, and it's increasingly doubtful that's going to produce any sort of accord.
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