A Russian Defense Ministry official said Syria has informed them that 62 of its soldiers were killed in the airstrike
(BEIRUT) — The U.S. military said it may have unintentionally struck Syrian troops while carrying out a raid against ISIS on Saturday, which if confirmed would mark the first known direct American strike on President Bashar Assad’s forces.
U.S. Central Command said the strike was immediately halted “when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.”
The Syrian military said the airstrike hit a base in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour that is surrounded by ISIS, allowing the extremists to advance. Russia’s military said it was told by the Syrian army that at least 62 soldiers were killed in the air raid and more than 100 wounded.
The apparently errant strike could deal a crushing blow to a fragile U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire that has largely held for five days despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides. The cease-fire, which does not apply to attacks onISIS, has already been the subject of disputes between Moscow and Washington, with each accusing the other of failing to fully implement it.
“Coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit,” the military statement said.
The Syrian military said the airstrikes enabled an ISIS advance on a hill overlooking the air base. It called the strike a “serious and blatant attack on Syria and its military,” and “firm proof of the U.S. support of Daesh and other terrorist groups,” using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. President Bashar Assad’s government views all those fighting against it as “terrorists,” and has long accused the U.S. and other rebel supporters of backing extremists.