MOSCOW issued a stern warning to Washington yesterday, saying that it has deployed special forces alongside Syrian troops in Deir Ezzor province and will retaliate if they come under fire.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said that the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have already shelled government positions outside Deir Ezzor city twice in recent days.
“Syrian forces have twice come under massive mortar and rocket artillery fire coming from the areas on the eastern bank of the Euphrates where SDF fighters and US special forces are deployed,” said Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov.
Maj-Gen Konashenkov said that the warning had been delivered to the US military command.
Russian special forces have been deployed to help Syrian government forces fighting the Isis militants outside Deir Ezzor, he said.
“Attempts to open fire from SDF-controlled areas would be immediately met with retaliation. The firing positions in those areas will be immediately destroyed with all the arsenal at our disposal,” he warned.
He accused the Kurdish-led SDF of co-operating with Isis to obstruct Syrian and Russian troops in Deir Ezzor.
Russia began its operation to support President Bashar al-Assad’s offensive against Isis in Syria in 2015 but has mostly focused on providing air cover to government troops on the ground.
The campaign in Syria’s oil-rich eastern province is caught up in a race between the government and the US-backed SDF.
Both sides are seeking to expand their control of the province bordering Iraq. Many oil fields, including al-Omar, Syria’s largest, are scattered on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river.
A government offensive late on Wednesday captured two villages on the river’s western bank, taking about six square miles of land, said Maj-Gen Konashenkov.
The army continued its march along the eastern bank of the Euphrates yesterday, liberating Mazloum near alOmar and consolidating a buffer around its positions.
Al-Masdar News Agency reported yesterday that a large bomb-making factory belonging to al-Qaida affiliate Hetesh, blew up in Idlib yesterday, killing seven terrorists. It had no information on why it exploded.