Armed clashes reportedly erupted between Syrian regime forces and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Raqqa on Sunday, June 18, when Syrian Army soldiers allegedly attempted to cross SDF lines to reach the site of a downed Syrian fighter jet. This likely marks the first time since the beginning of the Syrian conflict that such direct clashes have occurred between these two groups.
This incident came a few hours after the US-led coalition downed a Syrian fighter jet near Raqqa after it allegedly ignored coalition warnings and dropped bombs near SDF positions. Damascus claims the airstrikes were targeting Islamic State (IS) positions, but SDF representatives on Monday, June 19, stated that the Syrian "regime's forces have mounted large-scale attacks using planes, artillery, and tanks since June 17." The attacks reportedly targeted SDF positions near Tabqa. Russia issued a statement in response on June 19 indicating its anti-aircraft defense systems would treat coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates as "targets." The situation is complex and fighting is expected to escalate.
The regime forces and the US-backed forces have both launched an offensive on Raqqa to liberate it from the IS.
Separately, representatives of the Iranian military announced on June 18 that it had launched several missiles into eastern Syria targeting IS positions in retaliation for the terrorist attacks carried out by the group in Tehran on June 7.
Syria is enmeshed in a complex civil war that started between the Assad government and opposition forces in March 2011. Today, the conflict in Syria involves many parties, including the Syrian government, the Jordanian government, the Iranian government, the Turkish government, the Russian government, a United States-led coalition, and numerous armed groups on the ground (including IS) with competing goals. Raqqa is known as the IS capital, and is one of the last IS strongholds in Syria.
Individuals in Syria are advised to remain aware of their surroundings and to be on alert against any suspicious behavior, due to the high threat of terrorism. It is advised not to eat, drink, or smoke in public throughout the month of Ramadan to avoid drawing undue attention to yourself.
Due to extremely poor security conditions, Western governments generally advise against all travel to Syria, with some countries banning all travel to the country. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to any travel to the country.
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