ISIS Fighters Killed in Battle Near Al-Tanf, Syria

Coalition Forces Kill More Than 20 ISIS Terrorists in Southern Syria

Coalition-partnered forces in southern Syria killed more than 20 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists near Al-Tanf (called At-Tanf in US sources), Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials said Thursday, December 14.

A number of ISIS terrorists were detained in the engagement, including foreign terrorists, officials said.

The Maghawir al-Thawra, a vetted Syrian opposition force, has been fighting ISIS in the tri-border area of Iraq, Syria, and Jordan since 2015, according to officials. It is not clear from reports whether US forces were directly involved.

Who Are Maghawir a-Thawra?

Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra (Arabic: جيش مغاوير الثورة‎), is the Revolutionary Commando Army, a Syrian rebel group made up of Syrian Arab Army defectors and other rebels established during the Syrian Civil War. Previously called the New Syrian Army (Arabic: جيش سوريا الجديد‎, Jaysh Suriyah al-Jadid, abbreviated NSA or NSyA), it was founded on 20 May 2015 to expel the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, aka ISIS, Islamic State, IS, Daesh) from eastern Syria. They claimed to have received training and weapons from the Saudi-Arabian-backed group Authenticity and Development Front and the American CIA. In December 2016, the New Syrian Army dissolved and the remnants of the group reformed as the Revolutionary Commando Army.

Strategic Importance of Al-Tanf

Al-Tanf (Syria) or Al Waleed (Iraq) is one of three official border crossings between Syria and Iraq.  Located in the Badia desert  region straddling Northern Iraq and Southern Syria, it serves as the main border checkpoint on the highway between Damascus and Baghdad. The al-Tanf checkpoint is on the Syrian side of the border, in Homs province. The Al-Waleed Palestinian refugee camp is nearby.

ISIS captured the checkpoint in May 2015, thereby gaining control over the full length of the Iraq-Syria border. The Iraqi checkpoint was recaptured by pro-government Iraqi tribal militias backed by the U.S.-led forces in August 2016. The BBC published photographs taken in June 2016, which it said showed British special forces soldiers patrolling the perimeter of the New Syrian Army’s base, at al-Tanf. This was the first time during the conflict that British special forces had been seen on the ground in Syria.

In March 2017, U.S.-backed Maghawir a-Thawra rebels re-opened the border point, resuming cross-border civilian traffic; a group referred to as Jaish al-Ashair al-Iraqi was said to control the Iraqi side of the crossing.

Weakened ISIS Still Presents a Threat

Coalition and partner forces in Syria have weakened ISIS, but the increasingly desperate terrorists continue to present a threat to the civilian population, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve’s director of operations.

The ISIS terrorists freely moved through an area controlled by pro-Syrian regime forces, officials said. This is the second time in less than a month that convoys of ISIS terrorists, fleeing the middle Euphrates River valley, transited through regime-controlled territory. The Maghawir al-Thawra, supported by coalition forces, detected the enemy convoy during the predawn hours yesterday and quickly and professionally conducted an operation to prevent their further incursion.

Despite the presence of Russian-backed, pro-Syrian regime forces in the area, ISIS still finds ways to move freely through regime lines and pose a threat, Braga said. The coalition will continue to work with its partners, he added, to deny ISIS the ability to regroup and reorganize.

Sources: US Department of Defense; BBC

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