US-backed militia threaten retaliation in Syria after assumed government attack

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.

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U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017.

(Robert S. Price/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image, released by the Pentagon following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Ross and USS Porter on April 7, 2017.

(DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017.

(Robert S. Price/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Shayrat Airfield in Homs, Syria is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image released by the U.S. Defense Department on April 6, 2017 after announcing U.S. forces conducted a cruise missile strike against the Syrian Air Force airfield. DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. MANDATORY CREDIT.

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017.

(Robert S. Price/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017.

(Robert S. Price/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Shayrat Airfield in Homs, Syria is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image on February 18, 2017 and released by the U.S. Defense Department on April 6, 2017 after announcing U.S. forces conducted a cruise missile strike against the Syrian Air Force airfield. 

(DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

(Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)

Battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image, released by the Pentagon following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Ross and USS Porter on April 7, 2017. 

(DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

(Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTER)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

(Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image, released by the Pentagon following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Ross and USS Porter on April 7, 2017. 

(DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

(Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Syrian shepherds tend their flock near the damaged Shayrat ('ash-Shairat') airfield at the Syrian government forces military base targeted earlier overnight by US Tomahawk cruise missiles, southeast of the central and third largest Syrian city of Homs, on April 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on April 7, 2017 shows a view of the damaged Shayrat ('ash-Shairat') airfield at the Syrian government forces military base targeted earlier overnight by US Tomahawk cruise missiles, southeast of the central and third largest Syrian city of Homs. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
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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, signaling 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.

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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-defense 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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Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A view of Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel that was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. The slogan reads, "We will conquer Roma God willing". REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
Members of the rapid response forces inspect a tunnel was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
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