SDF returns fire after surprise artillary attack near Deir al-Zor: Coalition

On Wednesday, the Hashd al-Shaabi’s 29th Artillery Brigade reported having targeted significant IS positions in al-Atashna village in Syria.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have responded to artillery fire by an unknown source near the embattled Syrian town of Deir al-Zor.

In a statement on Friday, the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition stated that the SDF artillery returned fire at an unidentified aggressor just outside the town, located on the border of Iraq.

“The hostile force engaged SDF with artillery, and SDF responded in self-defense, resulting in the destruction of one artillery piece,” the statement read.

Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, the Coalition’s deputy commander for strategy and support, stated that his partners have repeatedly emphasized their non-negotiable right to self-defense.

According to the statement, Coalition officials have discussed the event with their Russian counterparts through their established ground and air "deconfliction" lines, a term used by the military for lines of communication with other forces operating in the same area to reduce the chance of unintentional attacks on each other.

No casualties have been reported on either side, it said.

“The Coalition remains committed to the lasting defeat of [IS], and to setting the conditions for follow-on stability operations."

On Wednesday, Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq stated that their artillery had targeted IS positions inside Syrian territories.

The Hashd al-Shaabi’s (PMF) 29th Artillery Brigade targeted significant IS positions in al-Atashna village in Syria, inflicting damage to fighters from the extremist group, the forces said in a statement.

On May 1, Kurdish-led SDF also said they had relaunched their operation against IS members in eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq.

Speaking to Kurdistan 24, Lilwa al-Abdallah, a spokesperson for the offensive in oil-rich Deir al-Zor province, said the operation would be backed by the US-led coalition forces, including American and French troops.

“Our forces aim to secure the Syrian-Iraqi borders and drive out Daesh from the area,” she said, using the pejorative Arabic acronym for IS.

In February, following an “unprovoked attack” on Tuesday against a “well established” headquarters of the SDF in eastern Syria, the US responded with air and artillery strikes, killing more than 100 pro-Syrian regime forces.

Editing by John J. Catherine