U.S.-backed SDF will retaliate if Syrian govt attacks again - spokesman


UPDATE 1-U.S.-backed SDF will retaliate if Syrian govt attacks again - spokesman

(Adds quotes, context)
    BEIRUT, June 19 (Reuters) - U.S.-backed Syrian militias
accused the Syrian government on Monday of bombing their
positions southwest of Raqqa city in recent days and threatened
to retaliate if the attacks continue.
    "The regime's forces have mounted large-scale attacks using
planes, artillery, and tanks since June 17," Syrian Democratic
Forces spokesman Talal Selo said in a statement.
    Selo said the attacks targeted SDF areas near the town of
Tabqa and the adjacent dam, Syria's largest, which the alliance
of Kurdish and Arab militias captured from Islamic State
militants in May.
    There was no immediate comment from the Syrian army.
    The Kurdish-led SDF began this month to push into Raqqa,
Islamic State's base of operations in Syria. With air strikes
and special forces from the U.S.-led coalition, they had been
encircling the city since November.
    "If the regime continues attacking our positions in Raqqa
province, we will be forced to retaliate...and defend our
forces," Selo said, accusing the government and its allies of
trying to obstruct the Raqqa offensive.
    The Syrian government has previously said it considers Deir
al-Zor and the Badia region, south of Raqqa, as its military
priorities, signalling that it did not intend to challenge the
SDF's Raqqa campaign.
    On Sunday, a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian army jet
southwest of Raqqa, with Washington saying the army had dropped
bombs near the SDF. Damascus said the plane was downed while
flying a mission against Islamic State. [nL8N1JF0YG]
    The Syrian army said the plane crashed and the pilot was
missing in the first such downing of a Syrian jet by the United
States since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
    The U.S. Central Command said the Syrian plane was downed in
self-defence after "pro-Syrian regime forces" attacked an
SDF-held town near Tabqa.
    Islamic State has been on the back foot in Syria over the
past year, losing territory to separate military campaigns,
including by the SDF and by the Russian-backed Syrian army.

 (Reporting by Ellen Francis; editing by Mark Heinrich)


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