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US Defense Secretary James Mattis listens during a national security conference in London on May 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has claimed the United States is not deepening its role in war in Syria, where government forces have been battling foreign-sponsored militants for more than six years.
"We are not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war, but we will defend our troops," Mattis said on Thursday, shortly after US warplanes bombed a convoy of pro-government fighters heading for a remote garrison to take on the foreign-backed militants.
"We will defend ourselves (if) people take aggressive steps against us. And that's been a going-in policy of ours for a long time,” he stated.
Since March 2011, the United States and its regional allies, in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, have been conducting a proxy war against Syria.  
The conflict has left hundreds of thousands of Syrians dead and half of the country’s population of about 23 million displaced within or beyond its borders.
The United States and some of its regional allies have been conducting airstrikes inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Syrian government or a UN mandate. The US-led coalition has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians.
A US fighter jet launches from the USS Carl Vinson on March 19, 2015. (Photo by AFP)
Earlier this year, the US military admitted that it had used depleted uranium (DU) ammunition in Syria, the controversial weaponry that causes serious health problems among the population.
According to weapons experts, the use of depleted uranium is a war crime, a crime against humanity, and an act of genocide, because the civilian population’s exposure to depleted uranium causes genetic damage, birth defects, cancer, immune system damage, and other serious health problems.

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