Russian airstrike wounds coalition forces in Syria

Sept. 16 (UPI) — Several coalition fighters were wounded by a Russian airstrike against positions held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militia backed by the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against the Islamic State.

The U.S.-led coalition said Saturday the strike was on a target east of the Euphrates River in Syria near Dayr Az Zawr, a position known by Russia to contain SDF fighters and coalition advisors.

Several SDF fighters were wounded and received medical treatment, coalition forces said in a press release, though no multinational fighters advising them sustained injury.

The SDF is a mostly-Kurdish militia the Pentagon has backed in the fight in Syria working to expel the Islamic State from Deir al-Zour, an oil-rich territory there that has drawn the group’s leaders there as it is ejected from other strongholds in the region.

Coalition forces have been battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, ISIS and Daesh, from the east side of the Euphrates, while allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which includes Russia, fight the terrorist group from the west side of the river.

While coalition officials note they retain the right to self defense, they also mentioned the deconfliction line established between the United States and Russia to alert one another to air strikes or other operations near positions they occupy.

It is not yet known if Russia used the deconfliction line to warn about the incoming airstrike this morning, but Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last month the line was effective.

He added, however, that as the two groups converge on the Islamic State position from opposite sides, it will get more difficult to stay out of each other’s way.

“Coalition officials are available and the deconfliction line with Russia is open 24 hours per day,” Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of the coalition forces, said Saturday in the press release. “We put our full efforts into preventing unnecessary escalation among forces that share ISIS as our common enemy.”

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