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A Christmas tree is decorated in the Christian-majority neighbourhood of Hamidiyeh in Homs
A Syrian man cycles past a Christmas tree being decorated in the Christian-majority neighbourhood of Hamidiyeh in the old city of Homs. (photo credit: YOUSSEF KARWASHAN / AFP)

Syrian state media claimed that the US-led Coalition fired missiles at its forces in Homs governorate on Sunday night. The claim comes amid rumors on social media that the Coalition targeted Syrian forces in the desert north of the Coalition-controlled Tanaf Garrison. However, the US said that a Coalition airstrike had killed an Islamic State commander named Abu al-Umarayn in the Syrian desert. He was accused of involvement in the murder of US aid worker Peter Kassig in November, 2014.

After 8pm several accounts that follow conflict in Syria claimed that the Syrian regime’s 21st mechanized brigade was struck by 14 rockets. They claimed the rockets had been fired from Tanaf, an area in Syria near where the Jordanian and Iraqi borders meet. According to these reports either the US air force or rockets fired from an M142 HIMARS battery had been used when Syrian regime forces came within 55km of the Coalition garrison in Tanaf. The garrison has been working with anti-ISIS forces for several years but the Syrian regime opposes the US presence. In the past the US has warned pro-Syrian militias from entering the area and has fired at them.

The Syrian SANA state media said that the regime’s forces were struck by “several missiles” in the area south of Sukhna, a town on the road from Palmyra to Deir ez-Zor. The media claimed limited damage had been done. It comes three days after air strikes targeted an area south of Damascus. Syria did not blame any country for the airstrikes on Thursday and sought to downplay their importance.

The US Coalition told CNN and Fox News that a US drone had targeted Al-Umarayn on Sunday. Lucas Tomlinson Fox News Pentagon correspondent reported that Al-Umarayn was involved in the murder of Kassig, a former US Army Ranger who was executed in Syria in 2014 by ISIS.

The missile strike on Sunday is being blamed on the US by Damascus and if it is confirmed it will be a rare example of the US targeting the Syrian regime. The US assertion that it targeted ISIS would also illustrate an expansion of anti-ISIS strikes into areas controlled by the regime west of the Euphrates. In June 2017 the US targeted pro-Syrian regime groups near Tanf. In February of this year US forces in Syria engaged a large column of pro-regime fighters that had crossed the Euphrates and attacked the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are partners of the Coalition in the battle against ISIS. In April the US, UK and France launched airstrikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons.

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