Another serious accusation in the dramatic US-Russian (and Syrian-Kurdish) race for the Euphrates. The US-backed, Kurdish-dominated SDF says it has been struck by a Russian airstrike for the second time in the last ten days. This time the SDF says the alleged Russian airstrike, and Syrian mortar fire resulted in killed as well as wounded:
U.S.-backed Syrian militias said Russian jets and Syrian government forces struck their positions in Deir al-Zor province on Monday, killing and injuring a number of fighters.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow or Damascus.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, said they came under attack near a major gas field they had seized from Islamic State in recent days.
“We will not stand by with our arms crossed and we will use our legitimate right to self-defence,” said the statement by the SDF, which fights alongside the U.S.-led coalition
The alleged airstrike hit SDF units inside the country’s largest gas field, which the Kurdish-dominated coalition snatched yesterday before the noses of the advancing Syrian army.
Just to recount, since the race for the Euphrates has restarted with a vengeance earlier this month we have had:
- An Arab SDF commander vowing he would stop the Syrian army from crossing the Euphrates
- US accusing Russian jets of knowingly bombing SDF positions with US troops nearby
- Russia accusing the SDF of flooding the Euphrates to hamper the Syrian army crossing
- Russia accusing the SDF and US of shelling Syrian army positions with Russian soldiers presumably nearby
- Russia accusing the US of cooperating with ISIS
And now, the SDF accusing Russia of bombing and killing its fighters, and warning it would not “stand by with arms crossed”.
In May-June we saw a similar confrontation unfolding in the barren, southern Syria around al-Tanf. In the fertile and densely-populated Euphrates river valley, with oil and gas fields nearby, the stakes are much higher, which is already being reflected in rhetoric if not confirmed attacks. (The al-Tanf standoff saw dozens of dead in three separate US air strikes, a toll the confrontation in the east has yet to reach).