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U.S. Forces Conduct Live-Fire Exercise in Southern Syria in a Warning to Russia

Carolyn Kaster / Reuters

U.S. Marines conducted a live-fire aerial assault exercise in southern Syria on Friday designed to warn Russian and other military forces to stay away from an American base there, The Washington Post reports.

The exercise, involving a company-size unit, came amid rising U.S.-Russia tensions across the Syrian battlespace. The Trump administration has warned both Russia and the Syrian government against a planned offensive in Idlib province in northwest Syria, the largest remaining pocket of rebel fighters who have tried, and failed, over the past seven years to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

In support of the Idlib operation, Russia has deployed a significant naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, with weaponry capable of reaching across Syria.

The Marine exercise took place near the U.S. garrison at Tanf, along the Syrian-Iraqi border near Jordan, around which the Americans have long declared a 35-mile deconfliction zone off-limits to others. It followed a Russian notification, and U.S. rejection, of a plan to enter the zone to pursue "terrorists."

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