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US warned Russia of Syria strikes minutes ahead of operation: Lavrov Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

US warned Russia of Syria strikes minutes ahead of operation: Lavrov

The US strikes targeted Iran-backed militia groups in Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 February, 2021

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Russia's top diplomat urged the US to renew contacts with Moscow on Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the United States gave Russia several minutes of advance warning before it carried out a strike in Syria on Thursday, according to Russia’s RIA news agency.

Lavrov described the timeframe as inadequate and urged the US to renew contacts with Moscow to clarify President Joe Biden's position on Syria, the Interfax news agency reported.

Moscow, which is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most senior backer, condemned the strikes.

“We resolutely condemn such actions. We call for unconditional respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters. “We reaffirm our rejection of any attempts to turn Syrian territory into an arena for settling geopolitical scores.”

At least 11 fighters from the Iran-backed Hashed al-Shaabi militias were killed in a series of air strikes launched by the US late on Thursday, targeting facilities in Syria used to launch rocket attacks against US outposts.

Sources close to Iraq-based Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Front (PMF), told The New Arab's Arabic language service that the air strikes targeted a former government building in the town of Albu Kamal, in eastern Syria, about 20 kilometres from the Iraqi border.

The compound was used by units of the Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada groups, but sources also said in a phone call to The New Arab that the site fell into disuse in 2019.

"The site that was attacked, like other similar sites on the border inside Syria, did not contain many items as a precautionary measure after the Zionists intensified the raids on the border area,” the source said.

They claimed reports of casualties inflicted by the airstrike to have been exaggerated. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday that at least 22 people were killed, after having previously put the number at 17.

Saad al-Hadithi, an expert on Iraqi security affairs, said the US attack was a "deliberate response with limited impact from a military standpoint." He told The New Arab that the area is constantly targeted by Israeli military and is in constant state of alert.

Read also: Pompeo questions Biden’s Syria airstrike: 'I hope it wasn't just bombs in the desert'

“The political implications of the American strike are much greater than their military impact," al-Hadithi said.

Washington's choice to strike in Syria is also meaningful, al-Hadithi added, as it shows the US is unwilling to embarrass the government of Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in Iraq.

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