Four officers of the Syrian Arab Army were killed in a surprise attack carried out by ISIS terrorists near the Syria-Iraqi border on Wednesday, January 23.

The terrorists stormed a SAA position located on the border outside the 55-km deconfliction zone area around Al Tanf military base occupied by the US-led International Coalition. Captain Ahmad Ahmad, First Lieutenants Nawaf Mualla and Issa Wahbeh and Lieutenant Muhammad Baghdadi lost their lives while repelling the attack.

After the clashes subsided, ISIS terrorists managed to escape to the no man’s land in desert areas. It is currently unknown whether they’ve crossed the border with Iraq or remained on the Syrian soil.

The incident highlighted the controversy around the US military presence in Al Tanf. According to the statements made by US officials, Washington believes the area possesses “strategic” importance in denying Iran land connection with Syria in the broader frame of US policy of “countering” the Islamic Republic.

However, after Donald Trump’s surprise announcement of “full and rapid” US withdrawal from Syria, it became unclear whether the US military will remain in Al Tanf. While the number of American troops there is no more than a couple of hundreds, the US trains and supplies a local force made up from Arab fighters of Maghaweir al Thawra.

Spokesmen of the Coalition and, especially, Maghaweir al Thawra have been insisting that the 55-km area around Al Tanf is the “safest” place in Syria. The latest attack proves them wrong.

Moreover, it is suspected that ISIS terrorists were able to infiltrate Rukban refugees camp located inside the deconfliction zone just over a dozen kilometers from Al Tanf base. The camp, which hosts some 50,000 refugees suffering from severe shortage of food, water and exposure to harsh weather conditions, was never visited by US personnel who deem it “unsafe”. At the same time, Maghaweir al Thawra fighters are regularly present in the camp, but provide only minimal assistance to its inhabitants.

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