Jet strikes on US-backed forces in Syria

The Sunday Guardian - - World - REUTERS REUTERS

US-backed mili­tias said they came un­der at­tack on Saturday from Rus­sian jets and Syr­ian govern­ment forces in Syria’s Deir al-Zor bor­der prov­ince, a fo­cus of an in­creas­ingly com­plex con­flict. The strikes wounded six fight­ers from the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF), ac­cord­ing to the al­liance of mostly Kur­dish and Arab mili­tias fight­ing along­side a US-led mil­i­tary coali­tion.

The United States and Rus­sia are back­ing sep­a­rate of­fen­sives in Syria’s multi-sided con­flict - with both sides ad­vanc­ing against the Is­lamic State mil­i­tant group in the east­ern re­gion that bor­ders Iraq. The sep­a­rate as­saults by the Rus­sian-sup­ported Syr­ian govern­ment and the US-sup­ported SDF have raised fears that clashes that could stoke ten­sions be­tween the com­pet­ing world pow­ers.

“Our forces east of the Euphrates were hit with an at­tack from the Rus­sian air­craft and Syr­ian regime forces, tar­get­ing our units in the industrial zone,” the SDF said in a state­ment.

Such at­tacks “waste en­er­gies that should be used against ter­ror­ism, threaten the se­cu­rity of the re­gion, and open the door to side con­flicts,” it said.

There was no im­me­di­ate com­ment from the Syr­ian govern­ment or from Moscow.

Both of­fen­sives are con­verg­ing on Is­lamic State from op­po­site sides of the Euphrates river—the Syr­ian army with al­lied forces from the west and the SDF from the east. The Rus­sia and US-backed of­fen­sives against Is­lamic State have mostly stayed out of each other’s way as the two states seek to avoid con­flict, with the Euphrates of­ten act­ing as a di­vid­ing line be­tween them.

On Friday, Ahmed Abu Khawla, who heads the SDF’s Deir al-Zor mil­i­tary coun­cil, said his forces would not let govern­ment forces cross. A se­nior aide to Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar alAs­sad said the govern­ment would fight any force, in­clud­ing the US-backed mili­tias, in ef­forts to re­cap­ture the en­tire coun­try. Is­lamic State is also com­ing un­der at­tack by US-backed Iraqi govern­ment forces just over the bor­der from Syria’s Deir al-Zor in­side Iraq.

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