The Syrian government’s allies will strike at American positions inside Syria if it crosses any “red lines,” Hezbollah warned on Wednesday.
The Lebanese terror group, a close ally of the Syrian government, issued the threat via its military media arm one day after American forces bombed pro-government forces in eastern Syria.
The Pentagon said Tuesday the pro-government forces were infringing on a “de-confliction” zone established to protect US-backed local opposition forces, who are engaged in fighting the Islamic State group.
On its TV station al-Manar, Hezbollah broadcast footage it said was of an Iranian drone tailing an American one over eastern Syria. It said the video was proof the Syrian government’s backers could strike American units at will.
Iran is a key backer of Hezbollah and the Syrian government, and is deeply involved in the Syrian civil war.
Hezbollah’s military media said it was only “self-restraint” keeping pro-government forces from attacking American units.
Also Wednesday, a US official said the fight for Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital, will “only accelerate” as the jihadists lose their grip on Iraq’s Mosul.
Brett McGurk, the US envoy for the global coalition against IS, said the US and its local allies, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, were prepared for a protracted fight for the northern Syrian city. He spoke at a press conference in Baghdad.
The jihadist group is locked in twin battles for its key strongholds, Raqqa and Mosul. The SDF launched its attack on Raqqa on Tuesday and has already captured a neighborhood on the city’s eastern end. Iraqi forces have been battling IS in Mosul since October.
McGurk said the fight for Raqqa will be a “difficult and very long-term battle.”
One day after American warplanes bombed an Iranian-backed militia that allegedly entered a supposed no-go zone near a U.S garrison in southern Syria on Tuesday - its second such strike in three weeks - a military alliance fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad said it could hit U.S. positions in Syria, warning that its "self-restraint" over U.S. air strikes on government forces would end if Washington crossed "red lines", according to Reuters.
The statement from the pro-Assad alliance was issued in the name of the "commander of the operations room of the forces allied to Syria", and was circulated by a military news unit run by Hezbollah, one of Assad's military allies in Lebanon.
"America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it," the statement said, adding that such attacks could be carried out with "different missile and military systems, in the light of the deployment of American forces in the region".
The statement also warned that the silence of "the allies of Syria" thus far was not a sign of weakness but "an exercise in self-restraint" to allow for "other solutions".
"This will not last if America goes further, and crosses the red lines," it said.
The stark warning by Syria, the first of its kind, which was struck by a volley of ballistic missiles launched by the Trump administration in early April, marks an escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran-backed forces over control of Syria's southeastern frontier with Iraq, where the United States has been training Syrian rebels at a base inside Syrian territory.
While Assad's allies also include Iran and Russia, the statement did not spell out whether Moscow was a signatory to it Reuters added.
The US strike on Syrian forces came on the same day U.S. and coalition aircraft were busy supporting thousands of Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces assaulting the de-facto Islamic State capital of Raqqa, the terrorist group’s last urban stronghold in what is left of its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
The Raqqa assault comes even as U.S. officials acknowledge that most of the Islamic State’s leadership has already fled the city for the more isolated Euphrates River valley running from the city east to the Iraqi border. But military planners have stuck with plans drawn up under the Obama administration and continued under President Donald Trump, predicated on the fall of Mosul and Raqqa before launching an effort to push the terror group out of the valley and Deir Ezzor province.
U.S. officials view the Iranian movement near al Tanf, in the extreme south of Syria, as a probing action to test the U.S.-trained forces there, and possibly act as a blocking force to prevent them from moving north to Deir Ezzor, according to FP. The Syrian regime wants to eventually retake the province, and Iran views the province and the river valley as a vital conduit to maintain influence from Iraq, through Syria and into Lebanon.
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