Syrian Kurds say US Marines deployed in Syria

The allegations of civilian deaths follow a similarly bloody incident just days ago, in which locals allege a US airstrike killed at least 30 people at a small mosque compound in rebel-held northern Syria.

Approximately 80 percent of the SDF's forces were Arab fighters, he said.

The United States will have to decide to what extent it can support the Kurdish forces during the offensive to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa as the country also has to ensure cooperation with Turkey, US Senator John McCain told reporters.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led group of militias backed by the US-led coalition, is fighting to isolate Raqqa ahead of an anticipated assault on the city, which Daesh has used as a command node to plan attacks overseas.

USA officials reported no major developments on the ground Thursday.

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Emboldened by the regime's victory over anti-government forces in the rebel stronghold of Aleppo late past year has prompted an increased Syrian and Russian presence on the Islamic State battlefield. It is located about 40 km (25 miles) to the west of Raqqa city. Tabqa lies 45 kilometers, or about 28 miles, west of the city. The top USA diplomat did not make clear where these zones were to be set up. But the new offensive suggests the Trump administration is taking an increasingly aggressive approach as it plans an assault on Raqqa.

A US-led coalition strike is reported to have killed 33 civilians in northern Syria on Wednesday. Turkey, the US and the European Union have designated the group a terrorist organization, but neither the USA nor European Union have followed Turkey's lead on the YPG. Washington, however, sees the YPG as an effective battlefield partner. The U.S. also provided artillery fire from a Marine contingent, as well as close air support by U.S. Army Apache helicopters, he said.

Col. Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the US -led military coalition that is fighting IS in Syria and Iraq, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that the Tabqa operation was large and likely would last for weeks.

The al-Qaida-led Levant Liberation Committee said its fighters captured three more villages Thursday morning. Together, the battles reflect a USA strategy of presenting IS with multiple challenges simultaneously.

"This is a significant strategic target", he said.

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Israel and Syria are still technically at war, though the border had remained largely quiet for decades until 2011 when the Syrian conflict broke out.

"We're fleshing it out", he declared, saying it would include economic, diplomatic, military and covert efforts.

Tillerson made clear he was not committing to an open-ended US presence in Syria.

US warplanes are responsible for the vast majority of coalition airstrikes in Syria.

The Pentagon has about 5,200 troops in Iraq and 1,000 in Syria.

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