SYR­IAN CRI­SIS US-led force says its fight­ers hit by Rus­sian, regime strikes

Calls the airstrikes an at­tempt to cre­ate ob­sta­cles in its ‘progress’

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

Beirut, Le­banon - A US-backed force bat­tling the Is­lamic State (IS) in east­ern Syria ac­cused regime and Rus­sian war­planes on Satur­day of bomb­ing its fight­ers.

It marked the first time the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF), an al­liance of Arab and Kur­dish fight­ers, have said they have been hit by Russia.

The SDF and Rus­sian-backed Syr­ian govern­ment forces are con­duct­ing par­al­lel but sep­a­rate of­fen­sives against IS in the strate­gic and oil-rich east­ern prov­ince of Deir Ez­zor.

Regime troops are wag­ing an as­sault for the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, Deir Ez­zor city, while SDF fight­ers bat­tle the ex­trem­ists fur­ther east across the Euphrates River.

“At 3.30am on Septem­ber 16, 2017, our forces east of the Euphrates River were tar­geted by Rus­sian and Syr­ian regime war­planes in the Al Si­naaiya area,” the SDF said.

It said six of its fight­ers were wounded.

Al Si­naaiya is an in­dus­trial area north­east of Deir Ez­zor city, about 7km from the east bank of the Euphrates.

“At a time when the SDF’s brave forces are scor­ing great vic­to­ries against IS in Raqa and Deir Ez­zor...some par­ties are try­ing to cre­ate ob­sta­cles to our progress,” the state­ment said.

The SDF’s as­saults against IS in Deir Ez­zor and in Raqa fur­ther up the Euphrates Val­ley are both backed by the US-led coali­tion, while regime troops are get­ting air cover from Russia.

SDF fight­ers say they not co­or­di­nat­ing their Deir Ez­zor op­er­a­tions with the govern­ment or Russia.

But the coali­tion says there is a de-con­flic­tion line to pre­vent the two of­fen­sives from clash­ing.

The line agreed be­tween Russia, the regime, the SDF and the coali­tion runs from Raqa prov­ince south­east along the Euphrates River to Deir Ez­zor.

The skies over Syria have be­come in­creas­ingly con­gested as the six-year con­flict has dragged on, with war­planes from the coali­tion, the Syr­ian govern­ment and Russia all car­ry­ing out air strikes.

Con­fronta­tions be­tween the war­planes have been rare, but in June a US fighter jet shot down a Syr­ian war­plane ac­cused of bomb­ing SDF units in the coun­try’s north.

Syria’s cri­sis erupted with protests de­mand­ing the ouster of Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad in 2011, but it has since mor­phed into a com­plex, multi-front war that has killed 330,000 peo­ple and dis­placed mil­lions.

IS once held most of Deir Ez­zor prov­ince and its cap­i­tal, en­cir­cling around 100,000 civil­ians.

But Rus­sian-backed troops breached the IS sieges on the city ear­lier this month and are now work­ing to shut off the re­main­ing es­cape routes.

IS has also been pushed out of two-thirds of its for­mer bas­tion Raqa by the SDF.

(AFP)

Smoke rises from build­ings fol­low­ing a strike on a rebel-held area of the Jo­bar dis­trict, east of the Syr­ian cap­i­tal on Thurs­day

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