A joint United States-Kurdish (Syrian Democratic Forces) anti-ISIS patrol came under fire soon after passing through a Syrian military checkpoint. No U.S. casualties were reported.
After receiving fire from the checkpoint, the American-led coalition troops returned fire, killing one Syrian soldier and wounding two others according to statements from U.S. military officials and Syrian state-run media.
In a released statement by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), the coalition troops returned fire but did not conduct an airstrike as Syrian media reported.
“After receiving safe passage from pro-regime forces, the patrol came under small arms fire from individuals in the vicinity of the checkpoint,” the statement said.
“Coalition forces returned fire in self-defense. The Coalition did not conduct an airstrike. No Coalition casualties occurred. The Coalition patrol returned to base. The incident is under investigation.”
🔴On 8/17, @CJTFOIR & @cmoc_sdf, conducting a routine anti-ISIS security patrol near Tal Al-Zahab, encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian regime forces…the patrol [was attacked]. Coalition troops returned fire in self-defense. No Coalition casualties. Full Statement 👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/3qWFrZh1wR
— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) August 17, 2020
That is where the stories began to differ: The Syrian state-run news site SANA reported that according to unnamed Syrian military officials, a U.S. helicopter gunship attacked an army checkpoint in the village of Tal Dahab, near the town of Qamishli, at around 9:45 a.m. (0645 GMT). The official said a Syrian soldier was killed and two others were wounded.
SANA said the Syrian army prevented an American convoy from passing through the checkpoint.
“At exactly nine o’clock this morning, an American patrol tried to enter the area where one of our combat formations were deployed in the countryside of the city of al-Qamishli through the ‘Tal al-Dhahab’ checkpoint,” SANA reported in quoting a Syrian military official.
“The members of the U.S. patrol opened several rounds of fire,” adding that “after about 30 minutes, two U.S. warplanes attacked the army personnel at the checkpoint.”
SANA also posted pictures of what it said were wounded personnel from the incident. The wounded were reportedly rushed to Qamishli National Hospital.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a U.K.-based Syrian civil war monitor, also reported that a U.S. aircraft targeted Syrian troops after “altercations between the two parties” occurred before the troops passed through a checkpoint in Tal al-Dhahab.
There are hundreds of U.S. troops stationed in northeast Syria working by, with and through the Syrian Democratic Forces conducting anti-ISIS operations. They control much of that area of the country. But Syrian regime forces are actively trying to push them out, with Russian support, and regain territory lost during the nearly decade long civil war.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said last week that the conditions west of the Euphrates River, where the Syrian regime and Russian troops were, are ripe for an ISIS resurgence. “Conditions are as bad or worse” than they were leading up to the rise of ISIS, Gen. McKenzie said.
Tensions are rising in the area. U.S. and Russian convoys trying to conduct patrols in the region routinely harass one another, trying to limit the use of the roads to each other.