The US military presence in Syria presents a serious challenge to the peace process and thwarts the protection of the country’s territorial integrity, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said Thursday, a day after the US-led coalition struck pro-Damascus forces.
“A 55-kilometer zone unilaterally created by Americans around their military base near al-Tanf is being used by the scattered units of Daesh terrorists,” Zakharova said during the weekly briefing, stressing that the extremists have the opportunity to hide from the government forces in the area as well as regroup and prepare for new raids in the Syrian deserts.
She went on to underscore that the US presence remains “a serious challenge to the promotion of peace in Syria and the protection of its unity and territorial integrity.”
“Some influential external players are apparently not using the opportunities they have to promote a political settlement in Syria and facilitate the elimination of terrorists on Syrian soil.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that the Syrian militiamen were carrying out an anti-Daesh operation near the Al-Isba oil refinery in Deir ez-Zor province when they were attacked by the US-led coalition’s aircraft.
“While carrying out the task, militiamen were subjected to sudden mortar shelling and artillery rocket fire; after that the helicopters of the US-led international coalition struck them,” the statement reads, saying that a total of 25 militiamen were wounded in the attack.
The ministry also said that “the incident was caused by reconnaissance and search operations of Syrian militiamen, not coordinated with the command of the Russian task force,” adding that there are no Russian servicemen in that area of Deir ez-Zor.
The Defense Ministry highlighted that the attack showcased that the real goal behind Washington’s “illegal military presence in Syria” is control over the country’s economic assets rather than defeating the terrorist group Daesh.
The US-led coalition has described the attack as a retaliation for an “unprovoked attack” by pro-government armed militias on the headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), its allies in the region. A US official has said as many 500 militiamen were reportedly hit during what he described a coordinated attack against US allies.
The officials in Damascus have yet to comment on the attack. At the same time, Syrian state TV has slammed the incident as “new aggression” by the US and “an attempt to support terrorism.”
The US-led coalition of over 60 states has been conducting a military operation in Syria without the consent of the country’s government or UN approval.
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