Russia Says It Will Target US-Backed SDF Near Deir Ezzor if Fired Upon
Russia warned the United States on Thursday that any attempts to fire on Russian or Syrian troops near Deir Ezzor from areas controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces and their Coalition advisors will result in immediate retaliation.
Defense Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that regime troops and Russian special forces personnel have been targeted twice with mortar and rocket artillery fire from areas controlled by “SDF fighters and servicemen of US special forces.”
Konashenkov said the U.S. command in Al Udeid, Qatar, “was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down.”
“Firing points in these areas will be immediately suppressed by all military means,” he said.
The Coalition has repeatedly said it will defend both its partner forces and the Coalition advisors embedded with them if they are threatened.
On Wednesday, the Coalition confirmed to The Globe Post that Syrian and Russian troops had crossed the Euphrates to the east bank where the SDF is battling Islamic State. The Syrian ISIS Hunters unit posted images that it claimed showed its fighters near Khusham, not far from where SDF were hit by an airstrike over the weekend.
Konashenkov also claimed that Russian reconnaissance recorded no clashes between the SDF and ISIS near Deir Ezzor in the past week. The SDF has released the names of five of its fighters killed in Operation Jazeera Storm, the anti-ISIS offensive around Deir Ezzor and the Khabur river valley, and published details of its recent gains from ISIS, separately claiming that SDF special forces in Al Khasham village had freed three women and nine children.
Konashenkov also said that SDF reinforcements been “dispatched from Raqqa province to the northern areas of the Deir ez-Zor province.”
Oil-rich Deir Ezzor is the only Syrian province where ISIS still holds significant territory. Syrian government and allied forces including Russia are mounting an anti-ISIS offensive west of the Euphrates river while the SDF is conducting a Coalition-backed campaign against ISIS on the east side, where the majority of Syria’s oil wells are located.
With regime troops now on the east bank, within 4 miles (6 kilometers) of SDF forces, de-confliction between the sides has gained even more importance.