Russian and Regime Strikes on Deir Ezzor Gas Field Killed and Injured SDF Fighters
The Syrian Democratic Forces said on Monday that several of its fighters were killed and injured after Russian and Syrian regime air and artillery strikes on its forces northeast of Deir Ezzor.
The SDF said in a statement that Russian and regime forces launched an aerial and artillery attack on the Conoco gas plant, the nearby al-Izba station and a textile factory which killed and injured an unspecified number of its fighters.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurd-led force that makes up the majority of the SDF, said that Russian warplanes, artillery and rockets were targeting SDF positions.
“We strongly deplore the hostile attacks of Russian forces and their allies on the ground that serve terrorism and harm the war against terrorism,” the SDF statement said. “We call on the Russian Federation to cease its hostile attitude toward our brave peoples and forces.”
The SDF said that it coordinates its movements with the US-led Coalition and has focused on the fight against Islamic State, avoiding engaging in conflict with others.
“We affirm that we will not stand idly by and will use our right to legitimate defense,” the statement warned.
SDF spokesperson Cihan Sheikh Ahmed said SDF fighters responded “to the sources of today’s attacks on its positions north of Deir Ezzor” with heavy weapons.
قواتنا ترد على مصادر النيران الأرضية التي استهدفت حقل كونيكو و تقصف تمركزات القوات المعادية في محيط ديرالزور و تلحق بها أضرار مباشرة.
— Cihan Shekh Ahmed (@cihan_shekh) September 25, 2017
Ahmed Abu Khawla, commander of the Deir Ezzor Military Council which is spearheading the Operation Jazeera Storm offensive against ISIS in the area, said that the gas field was captured on Saturday. SDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Talal Silo said 65 ISIS militants were killed in the battle and more than 100 surrendered.
The gas field has been in ISIS control since 2014.
Abu Khawla said the Syrian army and their allies were within four km (2.5 miles) of SDF positions. Last week, the Coalition confirmed to The Globe Post that Russian forces were east of the Euphrates river.
— Nathan Ruser (@Nrg8000) September 24, 2017
The incident comes less than a day after a senior Russian general was killed in the area. Lt. Gen. Valeriy Asapov died after ISIS mortars struck a Syrian regime headquarters near Deir Ezzor, where senior Russian advisors were assisting Syrian commanders in the operation to capture Deir Ezzor city, the Russian defense ministry said.
Russia warned the U.S. on Thursday that any attempts to fire on Russian or Syrian troops near Deir Ezzor from areas controlled by the SDF would result in immediate retaliation. Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said regime troops and Russian special forces personnel had been previously targeted twice with mortar and rocket artillery fire.
The US-led Coalition blamed Russia for a strike on on SDF fighters near Deir Ezzor on September 16. A Coalition statement said that the location was known to Russia to “contain Syrian Democratic Forces and Coalition advisors.”
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.