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Syrian militias are being targeted in a rare airstrike to protect U.S. troops

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Vice President Joe Biden has ordered airstrikes against militias loyal to the Syrian government in eastern Syria, following an American assessment that it was crucial to prevent any success of an offensive planned for this week to recapture the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, U.S. officials said Sunday.

American military officials believe the Syrian forces — backed by Iranian fighters and Hezbollah — are too close to U.S. positions to resist a lightning assault in Deir Ezzor. To maximize the chance of taking the city, which has become a base for Iranian-backed forces, the American military is bombing the targets directly.

“Our Iranian allies are going to be there and supporting it,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s thinking about Syria.

At least three of the strikes have been near Deir Ezzor, officials said.

The strikes have yet to be confirmed by the Pentagon, which allows Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces access to Deir Ezzor, but which refrains from hitting the city or its surroundings.

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