A Russian defence ministry spokesperson on Tuesday, September 19, called on the US-led Coalition not to hamper Syrian government actions against Islamic State in eastern Syria, blaming Coalition-backed forces for increasing water flow in the Euphrates river in a bid to prevent them crossing.
Major General Igor Konashenkov said that Syrian government troops crossed to the east bank of the Euphrates near Deir Ez-Zor, not far from where Syrian Democratic Forces were hit by an airstrike on Saturday. The Coalition blamed Russia for the airstrike, a claim denied by a Russian spokesperson.
Oil-rich Deir Ez-Zor is the only Syrian province where ISIS still holds significant territory. Syrian government and allied forces including Russia are mounting an anti-ISIS offensive west of the Euphrates river while the SDF is conducting a Coalition-backed campaign against ISIS on the east side, where the majority of Syria’s oil wells are located.
“In the past 24 hours, assault troops of the Syrian government army backed by the Russia aerospace force crossed the Euphrates and continues to expand the stronghold east of Deir ez-Zor,” Konashenkov said.
Konashenkov said the water level in the Euphrates had risen significantly since the regime forces first crossed, blaming the SDF for increasing water flow in the river from upstream dams near Tabqa and Raqqa. He said the flow of water in the river “nearly doubled to two meters per second.”
“Since there have been no rains, the only source of such changes in the water situation is man-induced water discharge at dams upstream the Euphrates,” he said.
— ISIS Hunters (@ISIS_Hunters) September 19, 2017
The ISIS Hunters, a paramilitary special forces unit in the Syrian Arab Army, claimed on social media that some of its troops had crossed.
The Syrian ministry of defence has not confirmed that its forces have crossed to the east bank of the river, only that it captured a nearby island from ISIS.
— ISIS Hunters (@ISIS_Hunters) September 18, 2017
DEIR EZ ZOR
— Lucio Cienfuegos (@comcen76) September 19, 2017