Today is the seventh day Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters and their families have spent with a bus convoy now stalled in the Syrian desert east of Sukhnah, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported.
The convoy, initially consisting of 17 buses and other support vehicles, was halted in its move toward Iraq on Aug. 29 by coalition strikes that prevented its movement to the east.
The coalition and its Iraqi partners were not a party to the agreement between the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and ISIS to allow these experienced fighters to transit territory under Syrian regime control to the Iraqi border. Officials pointed out the coalition has been clear that in support of its Iraqi partners, it will not allow the movement of ISIS fighters near the border or onto sovereign Iraqi soil.
Food and Water Deliveries
The coalition has never struck the convoy, officials noted, and has allowed food and water deliveries to reach the stranded women and children. "The coalition will continue to take action against ISIS whenever and wherever it is able to do so without harming noncombatants, they added.
Coalition leaders have communicated a course of action to the Russians, providing the Syrian regime an opportunity to remove the women and children from this situation. "The Syrian regime is letting women and children suffer in the desert. This situation is completely on them," said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the combined joint task force commander.
Over the past week, six of the 17 buses have returned westward toward Palmyra, back in Syrian regime territory, unimpeded by any coalition action, officials said, adding that the coalition continues to monitor the remaining 11 buses and communicate with Russian officials who advise the Syrian regime.