by Will Racke
U.S.-backed forces fended off an Islamic State assault on a coalition base in eastern Syria that is home to American and French troops, an international war monitor said Saturday.
Syrian Democratic Forces responded to an attack by at least 20 ISIS fighters on the international base at al-Omar oilfield, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The ISIS assault, which began late Friday and continued into the early morning hours on Saturday, was reportedly aimed at the housing area for members of the international anti-ISIS coalition, including American and French soldiers.
“The attack targeted the oil field’s housing, where US-led coalition forces and leaders of the Syrian Democratic Forces are present,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said, according to Agence France Presse.
At least seven ISIS jihadis were killed in the attack, the Syrian Observatory said. The coalition base was reportedly put on “high alert” as SDF and international forces swept the area in search of “infiltrators” who might be hiding in the aftermath of the firefight.
A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition to defeat ISIS, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the attack.
SDF fighters captured al-Omar, Syria’s largest oilfield, in October as part of a coalition offensive in the former ISIS stronghold of Deir Ezzor province. The area has since been converted to a base that contains about 500 SDF members and international coalition troops, according to the Syrian Observatory.
Beginning in 2014, ISIS exploited the chaos caused by the Syrian civil war and overran large swaths of southern and eastern Syria, claiming the territory as part of is “caliphate.” Although the U.S.-led coalition has managed to recapture most of that territory, ISIS still retains pockets of control in Deir Ezzor and the desert borderlands near Iraq.
As ISIS has lost nearly all of its territory, it has typically resorted to guerrilla-style attacks and suicide bombings on soft targets. In late July, the group launched a series of coordinated suicide attacks across southern Syria, killing at least 150 civilians in a single day.
Reports of an attack on the coalition base come as President Donald Trump is seeking to limit the U.S. role in Syria’s postwar reconstruction. The Trump administration said Thursday that it intends to cancel roughly $200 million in Syria “stabilization” funding that had been set aside earlier this year.
Trump has repeatedly signaled a desire to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops deployed to Syria as soon as the mission to destroy ISIS there has been completed.
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