Buses carrying ISIS members drive in Syria's Qalamoun region on their way to Deir ez-Zor on Monday. Photo: Louai Beshara | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The US-led Coalition has carried out airstrikes in Syria to prevent a convoy of ISIS fighters travelling from Lebanon to Deir ez-Zor on Wednesday.
"To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge," US Army Col. Ryan Dillon told AFP on Wednesday afternoon.
The strikes took place on the road “heading east between Hamaymah and Abul Kamal,” the coalition detailed in a statement Wednesday evening, stressing that they did not hit the convoy itself but cratered the road “to prevent the further transport of ISIS fighters to the border area of our Iraqi partners and struck individual vehicles and fighters that were clearly identified as ISIS.”
Describing ISIS has a “global threat,” the coalition said that relocation of fighters was not a “lasting solution.”
“This is just further evidence of why Coalition military action is necessary to defeat ISIS in Syria," the statement read, accusing Russia, the Syrian regime and its allies of not being committed to fighting ISIS.
The convey carrying ISIS militants and their families is comprised of 17 buses and ambulances containing at least 25 wounded individuals, according to statements by Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency had reported a military source as saying a deal was reached on Saturday between Hezbollah and ISIS on the withdrawal of the remaining ISIS militants from Western Qalamoun towards the eastern region of Syria.
Earlier on Wednesday, Dillon told Rudaw English that the buses were being watched in “real time.”
"This coalition is not party to that agreement. Our goal is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and we do not ... we are watching the situation and if we find ISIS fighters in Iraq or in Syria, we will strike them if we are able to in accordance with the law of armed conflict,” explained Dillon.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
“And if we can separate those fighters from civilians and strike them we will,” Dillon added.
Deir ez-Zor is a geographically strategic and city with oil wells and an air base. ISIS and Syrian regime loyalists backed by Russia have been fighting for control of the city.
The Middle Euphrates River Valley is home to the largest concentration of ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, and according to US Defense Secretary James Mattis, the place of "ISIS’s last stand."
"ISIS does not have sanctuary anywhere in Iraq and Syria. If we know where they are, then they should be watching out from above for coalition strikes,” Dillon also told Rudaw.
The river valley has served as a route for ISIS fighters between Syria and Iraq.
The Kurdistan Region Security Council and Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani had expressed their concern over the movements.
"We will be seriously observing this and looking into this. We take this to be a repetition of the scenario that was implemented in 2014, bringing mayhem to Iraq and the region,” read a statement from Kurdistan presidency on Wednesday
“We hereby declare that the Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan will have complete coordination and cooperation with the Iraqi army to counter any possibilities or developments.”
Last updated at 6.52pm