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Officials: US strike hits pro-Assad forces in Syria

File photo of Lockheed Martin’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter F-35B test aircraft BF-2 flying with external weapons

BEIRUT — U.S. officials said an American airstrike has hit pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria as they were setting up fighting positions in a protected area.

Officials said the strike near Tanf hit a tank and a bulldozer and forces there, but it was not clear if they were Syrian army troops or other pro-government allies.

One official said the pro-regime forces had entered a so-called “de-confliction” zone without authorization and were perceived as a threat to U.S.-allied troops there. The officials said the strike was a defensive move to protect the U.S. allies. It wasn’t clear if U.S. forces were there.

“The coalition commander assessed the threat and after shows of force didn’t stop the regime forces and those forces refused to move out of the deconfliction zone, the commander on the ground called for the air strike as a matter of force protection,” a senior US defense official told Fox News.

The American strikes were the first against Assad positions since the Pentagon rained 57 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat air base near Homs.

The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.