The United States-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Syria killed over 100 Syrian soldiers in air and artillery strikes. The strikes took place on Wednesday, February 7, 2018 and were in response to an assault by forces loyal to Syrian Regime President Bashar al-Assad against the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Kusham, Syria.
Supported by tanks and artillery, 500 troops loyal to Assad attacked an SDF compound in Kusham. It is likely that the regime forces were trying to seize oilfields in Kusham that were wrested from Islamic State militants in September, according to Col. Thomas Veale of the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve which is tasked with fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
As part of that mission, the United States has armed and trained the SDF to combat ISIS. America also has 2,000 soldiers on the ground in Syria with the SDF.
“After 20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF headquarters location, Syrian Democratic Forces supported by the Coalition targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes,” said Veale, reported Politico. “Coalition advisers were with the SDF in an advise, assist and accompany capacity, and this action was taken in self-defense.”
Syrian state news outlet SANA said those killed were primarily battling the Islamic State, although it admitted an attack against the SDF took place. They accused the United States of perpetrating a “brutal massacre.” Russia’s foreign ministry said the U.S. was attempting to secure Syrian resources.
With the war against ISIS winding down, various factions in the area are turning their attention to each other. Turkey recently invaded Syria, attacking the Kurdish enclave of Arifin, located close to the Turkish border. The YPG, which makes up a major part of the SDF, are mulling sending more troops to defend Arifin against the Turkish assault.