Russia Threatens Strike Against US Troops as Tensions Rise in Conflict Zone

Russia on Thursday raised the threat of a direct confrontation with U.S. forces in Syria, saying that the Russian military would target areas occupied by American units and U.S.-backed militias if Moscow’s troops come under fire.

The warning came amid rising tensions in the Syrian desert between the United States and its Kurdish and Arab allies on the one hand, and Russia, the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed militias on the other, as both converge on Islamic State-held territory in eastern Syria.

A Russian military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, had twice in recent days shelled Syrian government positions outside Deir al-Zour, a strategic city in the region.

Konashenkov said Russian special forces are helping government troops fight Islamic State militants in the battle for the city.

Moscow has conveyed to the U.S. military command “in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Konashenkov said in a statement. “Firing positions in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.”