Russia says it will strike at US allies in Syria
RUSSIA has threatened to target areas in Syria where American special forces and US-backed militia are operating if its own forces come under fire from them - something it says has already happened twice.
The country's defence ministry said Syrian Democratic Forces - an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias - had taken up positions on the eastern banks of the Euphrates alongside US special forces.
The SDF had twice opened fire with mortars and artillery on Syrian troops who were working alongside Russian special forces, the ministry claimed.
Major-General Igor Konashenkov said a representative of the US military command in al-Udeid, the American operations centre in Qatar, had been "told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down”.
He added: "Fire points in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.”
Moscow also claims the SDF has diverted from their battle at the northern city Raqqa and headed to the province of Deir al-Zor, about 160km to the east, where Russian special forces are helping the Syrian army push out Islamic State militants.
In Deir al-Zor, the Islamic militants are battling separate offensives from the SDF on one side and the Syrian army and its allies on the other.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian and Syrian war planes, has captured about 100km of the west bank of the Euphrates this month, reaching the border of Raqqa province early this week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported.
Syrian troops crossed to the eastern side of the river on Monday.
The SDF's advances have been on the eastern bank of the river.
The convergence of the two rival offensives has increased tensions in Deir al-Zor. The US-backed militia said over the weekend it had come under attack from Russian jets and Syrian government forces, something Moscow denied.
The SDF later warned against any further Syrian army advances on the eastern riverbank.
Russia's Defence Ministry subsequently said the waters of the Euphrates had risen as soon as the Syrian army began crossing it, suggesting this could only have happened if upstream dams held by the US-backed opposition had been opened.
General Konashenkov questioned the nature of SDF's relationship with IS.
Russian drones did not detect any clashes when SDF fighters approached Deir al-Zor, he said.