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Syrian army position bombed south of Al Bukamal

US-led Coalition denies carrying out strikes in the area

A Syrian military position in a village southeast of the city of Al Bukamal was bombed overnight on Sunday, June 17, leaving casualties, state news agency SANA reported.

Citing a military source, SANA said a Syrian Arab Army position was targeted in the town of Al-Hiri, leaving “a number of martyrs and other wounded people.”

The report did not specify the number of people killed and wounded.

SANA accused the U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State of carrying out the attack. The Coalition has denied the allegation, telling media that it did not conduct airstrikes in the area.

“Be careful of misinformation: @CJTFOIR did NOT conduct strikes near Abu Kamal west of the Euphrates,” Coalition spokesperson Colonel Sean Ryan later tweeted. “#SDF and the #Coalition is focused on #defeatDaesh mission east of the river.”

Syrian military or pro-regime fighters?

Other media reports said that pro-regime or other militia fighters were the target of the strikes.

Reuters reported a “commander in the alliance fighting alongside Damascus” as saying that the strikes were carried out by drones and targeted Iraqi militia positions between Bukamal and Tanf as well as the Syrian military.

Reuters did not specify which Iraqi factions were targeted, but Jaafar Hussaini, a spokesperson for the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) said in November that the Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group would fight ISIS in Bukamal because it borders Iraq.

The PMU said that “U.S. planes fired two guided missiles at a fixed position of Hashed al-Shaabi units on the border with Syria, killing 22 fighters and wounding 12,” AFP reported.

The raid took place 700 meters inside Syria, it added.

Euphrates river deconfliction line

The Syrian army said it recaptured Bukamal from ISIS in November. Nearby Al-Hari is on the western side of the Euphrates river deconfliction line that separates pro-regime forces from the Coalition and its partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The SDF are fighting to oust ISIS from the remaining pockets of territory it holds in Deir Ezzor governorate, where Al-Hari is located.

The area has been the site of a few reported collisions between the two sides. Last month the Coalition denied carrying out an airstrike on Syrian government positions in the Deir Ezzor countryside. In April, then-Coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon told The Defense Post that pro-regime forces had attacked the SDF near Deir Ezzor, but the Coalition used the deconfliction channel with Russia to de-escalate the situation.

In February, the Coalition responded to a reported coordinated attack by pro-regime forces on the SDF near the de-confliction line, with resulting airstrikes leaving as many as 200 Russian military contractors dead.

This story was updated on June 18, 2018 at 1335 GMT with the PMU’s statement.

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