Pro-Assad forces barraged a U.S.-backed military base in eastern Syria Wednesday, in what officials have called an “unprovoked” attack, prompting retaliatory airstrikes that left more than 100 pro-Assad soldiers dead, the BBC reported Thursday.
Col. Thomas Veale, a spokesman for the Inherent Resolve coalition told reporters that the attack on Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S.-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, appeared to be coordinated and occurred in Khusham, Syria.
According to Veale, the pro-Assad forces — about 500 fighters — began the attack by firing 122mm artillery pieces at SDF headquarters, followed by artillery fire and rounds from Soviet-era tanks.
Veale added, “After 20-30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF headquarters location, [SDF] supported by the coalition targeted the aggressors with a combination of air and artillery strikes.”
Veale clarified that the military action “was taken in self-defense,” adding that U.S. forces did not attack vehicles or soldiers as they fled.
Officials could not say whether Russia, which has allied with Assad and led pro-government airstrikes, was involved in the attack.
In a statement, officials from the SDF defended the actions and reiterated the coalition’s mission: battling the Islamic State.
“The coalition remains committed to focusing on the defeat-Daesh mission in the Middle Euphrates River Valley and asserts its non-negotiable right to act in self-defense,” the officials said.
According to the Washington Post, no U.S. troops were injured or killed. One SDF member was injured.
There are roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.