Coalition warplanes have bombed military vehicles moving into a protected area near a garrison in Syria, US officials said. The pro-regime convoy allegedly included Syrian army troops and militants from Iran.
At least eight people were believed to have died in the air strike, according to a monitoring group, who said they were members of militias loyal to the Syrian government.
The convoy "posed a threat" to the US forces and their allies at the Tanf base in south Syria, US defense officials said on Thursday. The pro-regime troops had entered "the established de-confliction zone" without authorization and failed to respond to warnings, they added.
The coalition also tried to contact the Russian command in Syria, which is allied with Damascus, before deploying jets to target the head of the convoy.
"This action was taken after apparent Russian attempts to dissuade Syrian pro-regime movement south […] were unsuccessful, a coalition aircraft show of force, and the firing of warning shots," the US-led command said in a statement.
A tank and a bulldozer were hit in the bombing, military sources told Reuters.
US and UK commandoes based in the region
Syrian rebels confirmed the reports of the strike.
"We notified the coalition that we were being attacked by the Syrian army and Iranians in this point and the coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy," said Muzahem al Saloum from the Pentagon-backed Maghawir al Thwra group.
The convoy was stopped around 27 kilometers (17 miles) away from the Tanf base, which is located near the point where the borders of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq meet. It was not immediately clear if western troops were present at the scene.
The base is used by American and British commandoes in their efforts to combat "Islamic State" (IS) militants, and to train the rebels from the Free Syrian Army.
The US has been bombing IS targets in Syria since 2014, but the Thursday attack marks a rare clash with pro-Damascus forces. Washington recently bombed a Syrian army airfield in retaliation for chemical strikes blamed on the Assad regime. In September last year, the US army also bombed a government military base, but later claimed the attack was a mistake and that IS was the intended target.
dj/rt (AP, Reuters, AFP)