Two British Special Forces soldiers have been seriously hurt after a missile attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) in Syria. The attack was believed to have happened on Saturday morning near Deir Ezzor in the east of the country. A Kurdish soldier fighting alongside the British forces was killed in the missile strike and five other British troops were injured. The most serious casualty, understood by the Telegraph to be from Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment, based in Hereford, is thought to have been hit in the throat with shrapnel. British Special Forces are believed to be operating in the east of Syria alongside American troops and Kurdish fighters of the People’s Defence Unit (YPG), a mainly Kurdish militia fighting in Syria. Kamiran Sadoun, a Syrian Kurdish journalist working for the Telegraph, spoke to injured fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at a makeshift hospital at the al-Omar oil field in the evening of Saturday 5. Isil's last battleground "I was in the hospital when they brought three injured SDF fighters,” he said. “One was heavily injured and one of them was injured lightly and one of them was killed. "We asked them what happened. One said they were patrolling with the British, there were around 5-7 of them when the Isil thermal rocket – a guided missile – hit. Two or three of the British were heavily injured but all 5-7 of them were lightly injured." The attack occurred as allies and fighters in the region consider the impact of President Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from the country. On December 19 Mr Trump stated that Isil had been defeated in Syria and that troops would be coming home "now". However, on Sunday John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser, confirmed reports that the withdrawal would be slower than the President suggested. He said Mr Trump was committed to defeating the remnants of Isil and “wants the caliphate destroyed”. He also stated that the US withdrawal is conditional on Turkey agreeing not to target America’s Kurdish allies. Analysis | US withdrawal does not mean the war on Isil stops Turkey must “meet the President’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered,” he said during a visit to Israel and Turkey. Also speaking on Sunday, Mr Trump denied the apparent volte-face: "We're going to be removing our troops. I never said we were doing it that quickly," he said. Emile Hokayem, Senior Research Fellow for Middle East Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Isil would be emboldened by news of an American withdrawal, describing President Trump’s new Syria policy as “messy”. “One can debate the merits and wisdom of the long-term US presence in north-east Syria," he said, "but certainly the way it was announced and the chaos that followed – with the resignation of [Defence Secretary James] Mattis and [Syria Special Envoy Brett] McGurk – really played to the advantage of the adversaries of the US and the West. “The US has become overly ambitious [in recent years]. The presence in eastern Syria was supposed to check and kick out Iran [and] it was supposed to ensure the enduring defeat of Isil. Benjamin Netanyahu greets US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Jerusalem on Sunday Credit: Getty Images Europe “The goals kept growing and there was a massive mismatch between the risk appetite of the Pentagon and the resources applied. “US policy has been bankrupt for many years, starting under Obama. The US was always going to face this kind of dilemma, this is not a purely Trump administration crisis. “The key problem was how this was announced, how it countered all the statements of senior US officials. “Trump makes things worse, but he didn’t create those dilemmas. A security source told the Telegraph the attack on British and Kurdish forces shows that the war against Isil in Syria and Iraq is not over. “The enemy is still there and still active. Isil are not entirely defeated,” the source said. Although Britain operates in some parts of the world without US partners it is inconceivable British forces would continue to operate in Syria following a US withdrawal. US army vehicles supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in Hajin, in the Deir Ezzor province, eastern Syria, December 15, 2018. Credit: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP The Telegraph understands that the tempo of operations has not diminished since Mr Trump’s decision and that US forces have not yet started disengaging from the region. The logistics of any withdrawal are likely to be hampered until the spring by bad weather. According to government statistics, RAF fighter jets and drones conducted 46 strikes against Isil targets in Syria in the first two weeks of December. The airstrikes helped expel Isil forces from the strategically important area of Hajin, near the Iraq border, described by the Ministry of Defence as “the terrorists last significant territory”. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, using an Arabic name for Isil, said: “The advance through Hajin is a huge milestone and shows that Daesh are being pushed further back into the shadows. “Make no mistake though, although this is another significant battle won, much hard work still lies ahead to ensure we win the war.”
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