US denies Syria airstrikes

Syrian state media has reported that the US-led coalition bombed Syrian army positions in the Syrian desert, but US military officials denied any knowledge of the strikes.

According to SANA a Syrian military source said “some of our military sites between Abu Kamal and Hamimia were exposed at dawn today to aggression launched by US coalition jets”.

Hezbollah media reported that the strikes targeted an energy installation called T2, about 100 km west of the Euphrates river where the US-led coalition is supporting ground forces against Islamic State. Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, told Reuters: “We have no operational reporting of a US-led coalition strike against pro-Syrian regime targets or forces.”

Following a series of military successes in Damascus and central Syria, the regime is now considering its next campaign against the rebels. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that government forces were moving into the southern province of Deraa. Israel has provided humanitarian support for rebels and civilians on the border with the Golan Heights since 2013.

In related news, the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, said yesterday that the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria, as demanded by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his first foreign policy speech on Monday, is not up for discussion. “All these forces oppose terrorism. They are not making an attempt to violate the sovereignty and territory of Syria,” he said.

On 17 May, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that foreign forces in Syria had to leave the country. Russia’s chief Syria negotiator Alexander Lavrentiev later clarified that any withdrawal of foreign troops should be done “as a whole” and include American and Turkish forces, as well as Iranian-backed proxies and Hezbollah.

Mekdad, however, suggested that Putin did not mean foreign forces “that entered Syria in agreement with the Syrian government,” but rather “demanded the withdrawal of forces that are here without agreement: that is the forces of the US, France, Turkey and other forces that are here illegitimately”.

The Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement: “As long as it is necessary, the risk of terrorism in Syria exists, and the Syrian government wants Iran to continue its support, we will remain in Syria.”

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