On Monday morning, US forces attacked a Syrian Army checkpoint southeast of Qamishli, northeastern Syria, killing one soldier and injuring two others. The attack reportedly took place after troops at the checkpoint prevented a US military convoy from entering the area.
Residents of Hasakah and Qamishli, two of the largest cities in Hasakah Province, took to the streets on Tuesday for mass demonstrations against the US presence in their country in the wake of Monday’s attack on a Syrian Army position.
Photos and videos allegedly depicting the scene of the protests have appeared online showing locals armed with flags of the Syrian Arab Republic, banners of President Bashar Assad, and signs demanding the withdrawal of US forces. According to a SANA reporter on the scene, demonstrators chanted slogans calling for US and Turkish occupation forces to be expelled from Syrian land. One of the protests even purportedly saw demonstrators burning an American flag.
SANA: The citizens in #Hasakah province staged two protest stands in Hasakah city and #Qamishli to denounce #US attack against #SAA’s checkpoint in Tal al-Zahab in Qamishli countryside. pic.twitter.com/f8Ak13STgN
— Aryn Habeeb (@ArynHabeeb) August 18, 2020
Smaller demonstrations also reportedly took place in rural communities outside the city of Qamishli.
#News Locals of #Qamishly countryside (#Syria) gathering in security square area, which is under the control of government forces, to expressed condemnation to yesterday’s airstrikes by #US helicopters on Syrian Army’s checkpoint. US killed one soldiers and injured two others. pic.twitter.com/ldZYBpioff
— 🇸🇾 NadieHarbieh 🇸🇾 (@HarbiehNadie) August 18, 2020
Local tribal leaders, as well as Hasakah City Orthodox Archbishop Mor Maurice Amsih, took part in the demonstrations, with Amsih calling the US attack an act of “hostility” against the Syrian people, and expressing confidence that all foreign forces who entered his country illegally would eventually be expelled.
The Syrian and US militaries have released diverging accounts of how Monday’s incident took place.
According to Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman Col. Myles Caggins III, US and allied Kurdish troops came under small arms fire coming from the vicinity of a Syrian Army checkpoint while “conducting a routine anti-ISIS* security patrol at about 9:20 A.M., with coalition troops returning fire. “The Coalition did not conduct an airstrike”, the spokesman stressed.
So according to #US invaders the Syrian Army is occupying #Syria.
Let that sink in. https://t.co/cV5g5paaal
— Enrico Kremlin-affiliated 🙂 ☦️ (@Russ_Warrior) August 17, 2020
However, a Syrian military source told SANA that the US patrol “opened several rounds of fire” after Syrian Army forces at the Tal al-Zahab checkpoint prevented it from passing at about 9:45 A.M. “After about 30 minutes, two US warplanes attacked the Army personnel at the checkpoints with heavy machine guns as a soldier was martyred and two others were injured”, the source said.
Control of oil and gas-rich northeastern Syria is divided between the Syrian government, the US, and its Kurdish allies, as well as Turkey-backed militants who entered the area during Ankara’s abortive invasion in late 2019. The regions of Hasakah and Deir ez-Zor contain tens of billions of dollars in untapped energy wealth, and Damascus has sought to return these areas to its control to help pay for reconstruction following long war against foreign-backed rebels and terrorist groups. Washington and President Donald Trump, however, have repeatedly expressed US plans to “keep” Syria’s oil, and to prevent it from falling into the hands of either the Syrian government or terrorist remnants.
The complex security situation in the area has led to repeated tense confrontations between Syrian civilians and troops and US forces in the region.
Damascus has repeatedly emphasised that US forces have no legal basis for their continued presence in the country. US forces entered the war-torn country on the pretext of battling ISIS in 2016, establishing a presence in Syria’s northeast, as well as a strip of land in the south near the Jordanian and Iraqi border, which they turned into a garrison and training base for anti-government rebels.
* Also known as Daesh, a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.