Russia again denies it attacked; US does not confirm


Russia has reportedly struck Kurdish-led forces near Deir ez-Zor city in eastern Syria for the second time in just over a week.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said Russian warplanes bombed positions on Monday, killing one fighter and injuring two. The SDF, led by the Kurdish militia YPG, said it had responded without specifying the nature or target of its counter-attack.

The SDF and Pentagon reported the first Russian strike on September 16, with six fighters wounded.

As with the first incident, Russia’s Defense Ministry issued a denial. Major Gen. Igor Konashenkov insisted that Russia is always careful to ensure accurate air strikes.

The Baghdad-based spokesman for the US-led coalition, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said rounds fell in the area around the SDF, but could not confirm that they were fired by Russia.

The prospect of a battle between pro-Assad forces, supported by Russian airpower, and the SDF has risen with both sides pushing back ISIS in Deir ez-Zor Province this month. The pro-Assad offensive is now in western sections of Deir ez-Zor city and to the south, while the SDF has closed from the north and east.

The SDF has accused the regime military and its foreign allies of firing across the Euphrates River. Defying the Kurdish-led forces, the pro-Assad offensive has carried out a crossing of the river to the eastern bank.

Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior advisor to Bashar al-Assad, has said that there will eventually be a confrontation with the SDF, whom she linked to enemies such as ISIS.

The SDF responded last weekend with the declaration of a Deir ez-Zor provincial council of 100 tribal leaders. Their troops also captured a major gasfield, beating the pro-Assad advance to the destination.

Russian media proclaim the construction of a pontoon bridge across the Euphrates to move pro-Assad personnel and equipment:

White Helmets: 40+ Killed on Monday by Russian-Regime Airstrikes on Idlib

The White Helmets civil defense organization says more than 40 people were killed on Monday by Russian-regime airstrikes on Idlib Province in northwest Syria — the deadliest daily toll in months from bombing in the area.

In the deadliest single incident, at least 10 people were reportedly killed and 20 wounded when tankers were set alight outside Sarmin. Other casualties included five members from one family in the village of al-Dana in northern Idlib, with other civilians injured; a woman killed and four people wounded in the town of Ma’arshourin in rural Idlib; two civilians killed and several injured in Ein Zarka; and one killed and others injured in Khan Sheikhoun.

Using the pretext of attacks by rebels and the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on regime positions in neighboring northern Hama Province, Russian and regime warplanes launched the first of hundreds of strikes last Tuesday. Civilian sites, include hospital and civil defense centers, have been targeted as well as headquarters of rebel factions who signed an agreement for a Russian-backed “de-escalation zone” earlier this month.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu criticized the airstrikes on Monday, warning they could put the Russian-Iranian-Turkish agreement for the zone in jeopardy: “If they continue arbitrary bombing everywhere, the outcome might be Aleppo. There could be the risk of a new migration wave.”

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Pro-Assad Attacks Renewed Near Damascus

Monitors and rebels also reported the resumption of pro-Assad attacks near Damascus, including bombardment of the long-disputed area of Jobar in the northeast of the capital.

The official spokesman of Jaish al-Islam, one of the two leading rebel factions in Jobar and the Damascus suburbs, said it is preparing for the breakdown of the de-escalation zone agreed with Russia this summer: “We will not weaken ,our determination — it will be more rigid. We will not lose sight of the betrayal of these mercenaries.”

The spokesman said pro-Assad forces also carried out shelling and missile assaults on fronts across the East Ghouta area near Damascus, trying to storm the positions with armored vehicles. He claimed Jaish al-Islam inflicting more than 15 casualties in repelling the attacks.

The Failaq al-Rahman faction said it had held back the pro-Assad forces in Ein Tarma, damaging two vehicles and killing “a number of soldiers”.