The U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State said Friday that it had pulled back surveillance aircraft following a convoy stalled in the Syrian desert at Russia's request.
"To ensure safe de-confliction of efforts to defeat ISIS, coalition surveillance aircraft departed the adjacent airspace at the request of Russian officials during their assault on Dawyr Az Zawyr," the coalition said in a statement reported by the Hill.
ISIS terrorists and their family members have been stuck on 11 buses in the desert in eastern Syria for more than a week after coalition forces cratered the road and destroyed a bridge with airstrikes, the Hill reports.
The coalition acted to prevent the members in the original 17-bus convoy from making it across Syria to link up with ISIS members in Iraq.
The steps forced six buses to return to Palmyra, a city controlled by the Syrian government, and stranded the other 11, the Hill reports.
The coalition has not struck the convoy itself, though it has hit as many as 85 members, allowing food and water to get through — citing the women and children on the buses.
Col. Ryan Dillon, a coalition spokesman, said Thursday that the United States had used the de-confliction line to communicate with the Russians to try to separate the women and children from the ISIS fighters.
But that effort had "not gained any traction," Dillon told the Hill.
Earlier this week, Syrian forces broke a three-year ISIS hold on Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria.
In that assault, pro-Syrian regime forces advanced beyond the ISIS convoy early Friday, according to the coalition.
"From the start of this situation on Aug. 29, we have placed responsibility for the buses and passengers on the Syrian regime, who in conjunction with Lebanese Hezbollah brokered a deal with ISIS to move its terrorists into Iraq,” Brig. Gen. Jon Braga, director of operations for the coalition, said in a statement, the Hill reports.
"The regime’s advance past the convoy underlines continued Syrian responsibility for the buses and terrorists.
"As always, we will do our utmost to ensure that the ISIS terrorists do not move toward the border of our Iraqi partners," he said.
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