Russian forces bombed US-backed fighters in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor early Saturday, the US-led coalition said after Moscow denied the claim.
“At approximately 12:30 am GMT (3:30 am local time) September 16, Russian forces struck a target east of the Euphrates River in Syria near Deir Ezzor, causing injuries to coalition partner forces,” the coalition said in a statement.
“Russian munitions impacted a location known to the Russians to contain Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisors. Several SDF fighters were wounded and received medical care as a result of the strike.”
The statement added that no coalition troops were wounded.
Russia’s military spokesman earlier denied targeting the SDF, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters supported by Washington.
“This is not possible. Why would we bomb them?” military spokesman Igor Konashenkov told AFP at the Hmeimim base, Moscow’s main outpost for its air operations in Syria.
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.
For the most part, the two sides have avoided running into each other, largely thanks to a special “deconfliction” hotline used to communicate about where operations are taking place.
“Coalition officials are available and the deconfliction line with Russia is open 24 hours per day,” coalition commander Lieutenant General Paul Funk said.
“We put our full efforts into preventing unnecessary escalation among forces that share ISIS as our common enemy.” AFP / SAMAA
Story first published: 17th September 2017