US moves long-range rocket launchers into southern Syria

AMMAN, June 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. military has moved a new truck-mounted, long-range rocket launcher from Jordan to a U.S. base in Tanf, Syria, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, stepping up its presence in the area, two regional intelligence sources said on Wednesday.

They said the (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems - HIMARS - had moved into the desert garrison, which has seen a buildup in recent weeks as tensions escalate after the U.S.-led coalition struck Iranian-backed forces to prevent them advancing towards the Tanf base.

RELATED: Jets bomb two hospitals in Syria's Idlib

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Jets bomb two hospitals in Syria's Idlib
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Jets bomb two hospitals in Syria's Idlib
Smoke rises from an emergency service point after an airstrike at the rebel-held village of Maar Zita in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Smoke rises from an emergency service point after an airstrike at the rebel-held village of Maar Zita in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
Smoke rises from an emergency service point after an airstrike at the rebel-held village of Maar Zita in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A view shows the damage at a hospital after an airstrike in Deir al-Sharqi village in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A view shows the damage at a hospital after an airstrike in Deir al-Sharqi village in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A view shows the damage at a hospital after an airstrike in Deir al-Sharqi village in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A view shows the damage at a hospital after an airstrike in Deir al-Sharqi village in Idlib province, Syria April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A view shows the damage at a hospital after an airstrike in Deir al-Sharqi village in Idlib province, Syria April 27 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A view shows the damage at a hospital after an airstrike in Deir al-Sharqi village in Idlib province, Syria April 27 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
REFILE - UPDATING SLUG A damaged ambulance and hospital are pictured at a site hit by overnight airstrike, in Kafr Takharim, northwest of Idlib city, Syria April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah
A general view shows the damage following an air strike on a hospital in the village of Deir Sharqi on the eastern outskirts of Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on April 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the damage following an air strike on a hospital in the village of Deir Sharqi on the eastern outskirts of Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on April 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the damage following an air strike on a hospital in the village of Deir Sharqi on the eastern outskirts of Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on April 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the damage following an air strike on a hospital in the village of Deir Sharqi on the eastern outskirts of Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on April 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the damage following an air strike on a hospital in the village of Deir Sharqi on the eastern outskirts of Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib, on April 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour (Photo credit should read OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - APRIL 27: Smoke rises after an airstrike to ambulances at Maar Zita town of Maarrat al-Nu'man district in Idlib, Syria on April 27, 2017. (Photo by Bilal Baioush/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - APRIL 27: Civil defence team members try to extinguish fire after an airstrike to ambulances at Maar Zita town of Maarrat al-Nu'man district in Idlib, Syria on April 27, 2017. (Photo by Bilal Baioush/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - APRIL 27: An inside view of a damaged hospital after Russian warcrafts carried out airstrike to a hospital in Deir Sharqi town of Idlib, Syria on April 27, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Karkas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - APRIL 27: Civil defence team members carry wounded people to ambulances after Russian warcrafts carried out airstrike to a hospital in Deir Sharqi town of Idlib, Syria on April 27, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Karkas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - APRIL 27: A wheelchair is seen at a damaged hospital after Russian warcrafts carried out airstrike to a hospital in Deir Sharqi town of Idlib, Syria on April 27, 2017. (Photo by Mohammed Karkas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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"They have arrived now in Tanf and they are a significant boost to the U.S. military presence there," one senior intelligence source said, without elaborating. The HIMARS had already been deployed in northern Syria with U.S.-backed forces battling Islamic State militants, he added.

Washington deployed the HIMARS on the Turkish border to strike at Islamic State outposts. They were used several times from the Jordanian border to hit militants who had a foothold in the southeastern desert.

Under heavy pressure, the militants have mostly retreated from the desert in the last three months. Now U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are competing with the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militias as they all try to recapture territory from Islamic State.

Tanf is near a Syria-Iraq border crossing on the main Baghdad-Damascus highway. The rebels took it from Islamic State last year, partly to stop Iran from using it to send arms to the Syrian government.

The rebels also want to use it to take more territory along the border and to push towards Deir al-Zor, a large city on the Euphrates where the government has an enclave surrounded by Islamic State fighters. (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, editing by Larry King; editing by Mark Heinrich)


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