May 19, 2017 / 8:07 AM / in 2 months

Syria calls U.S. air strike "terrorism", Russia says 'unacceptable'

3 Min Read

GENEVA/MOSCOW (Reuters) - A U.S. military strike in Syria on Thursday was "government terrorism" and caused a massacre, Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari said on Friday, while Russia called it an unacceptable breach of Syrian sovereignty.

U.S. officials told Reuters that the U.S. military carried out the air strike on Thursday against militia supported by the Syrian government that posed a threat to U.S. forces and U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in the country's south.

Ja'afari said he had raised the incident with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura at peace talks in Geneva.

"We discussed the massacre that the U.S. aggressor committed yesterday in our country. This subject was widely discussed," Ja'afari told reporters.

"The important thing is that our political ambition is higher because we want to focus on fighting terrorism represented by armed groups and the state and government terrorism happening against our country.

"This includes the American aggression, French aggression and British aggression, whether on civilian or military targets."

The U.S. strike was the second deliberate military attack on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In April U.S. President Donald Trump ordered cruise missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Damascus.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the U.S. action would hamper efforts to find a political solution to the conflict.

"It is utterly unacceptable and a violation of Syria's sovereignty," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

"Any military action leading to an escalation of the situation in Syria has an impact on the political process."

A military source on the Syrian government side said the air strike had hit "one of our military points", without elaborating, Syrian state TV reported.

The strike killed several people and caused material damage, the source said, saying that this hampered efforts by the Syrian army and its allies to fight Islamic State.

Gatilov complained about what he said was a separate strike that had occurred on Wednesday May 17.

"Literally a day before this (Thursday's strike) a strike was carried out which resulted in a large number of civilian deaths, which is also unacceptable," Gatilov was cited as saying.

The United States has not spoken about any strikes carried out by the U.S.-led coalition on that date.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Catherine Evans and Richard Lough

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