In this file photo taken on August 8, 2017, smoke billows following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa. / AFP / Mohamad ABAZEED
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Rebels in southern Syria who were once backed by the United States fear a new offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces, one that risks igniting a wider conflict. A government push to the south could bring allied Iranian and Russian forces even closer to the increasingly tense frontier with Israel and to U.S. forces based further to the east. For years, rebel forces known as the Southern Front received covert U.S. arms, funding and training to help them fight both the Syrian government and Daesh. But President Donald Trump ended the CIA program last year to try and extricate the U.S. from the civil war, an effort that was again thrown into doubt when an alleged chemical attack this month prompted U.S. and allied airstrikes against Assad's forces.It has carried out more than a hundred airstrikes in Syria since the war began in 2011 and is believed to have carried out an airstrike on a Syrian base earlier this month that killed seven Iranian military personnel.In recent months, the group has retreated from attacks by government forces as well as Daesh militants and is now largely confined to an area further east near the rebel-held Al-Tanf military base, where U.S. special operations forces are housed.
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