SDF says hit by Rus­sian, govern­ment strikes in east Syria

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

BEIRUT: A US-backed force bat­tling the IS group in east­ern Syria ac­cused govern­ment and Rus­sian war­planes on Saturday of bomb­ing its fight­ers.

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

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

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

“At 3:30 am (0030 GMT) on Septem­ber 16, 2017, our forces east of the Euphrates River were tar­geted by Rus­sian and Syr­ian 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 the city of Deir Ez­zor, about 7 km 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 Syr­ian troops are get­ting air cover from Rus­sia.

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

IS, which in 2014 over­ran swathes of ter­ri­tory across Syria, is see­ing its zones of con­trol dwin­dle even as it claims re­spon­si­bil­ity for bloody at­tacks abroad.

It once held most of Deir Ez­zor prov­ince and its cap­i­tal, en­cir­cling around 100,000 civil­ians that still lived in g o v e r n me n t - c o n t r o l l e d neigh­bour­hoods there.

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

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

And in desert ter­ri­tory just across the bor­der in Iraq, se­cu­rity forces backed by tribal fight­ers are ma­noeu­vring into po­si­tion to launch an of­fen­sive against one of IS’s last re­main­ing bas­tions.

Af­ter driv­ing IS out of Nin­eveh prov­ince ear­lier this year, the Iraqi govern­ment set its eyes on Haw­ija, north of Bagh­dad, as well as the towns of Al Qaim, Rawa and Anna in the western desert.

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