MOSCOW — Russia on Thursday raised the threat of a direct confrontation with U.S. forces in Syria, saying that the Russian military would target areas occupied by American units and U.S.-backed militias if Moscow’s troops come under fire.

The warning came amid rising tensions in the Syrian desert between the United States and its Kurdish and Arab allies on the one hand, and Russia, the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed militias on the other, as both converge on Islamic State-held territory in eastern Syria.

A Russian military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, had twice in recent days shelled Syrian government positions outside Deir al-Zour, a strategic city in the region.

Konashenkov said Russian special forces are helping government troops fight Islamic State militants in the battle for the city.

Moscow has conveyed to the U.S. military command “in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Konashenkov said in a statement. “Firing positions in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.”

The tensions have been escalating as the SDF advances through Islamic State-held territory from the northeast toward Russian-backed Syrian government forces advancing from the west, risking a collision at some point.

The warning that Russia is prepared to take military action to check any further advances by the U.S.-led coalition came after the United States on Saturday said Russian warplanes had struck an SDF position north of Deir al-Zour. Soldiers of the U.S.-led multinational coalition were present at the time of the strike, according to a U.S. military statement.

Syrian government officials have said they regard it as essential to take control over the area.

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