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Syrian Army and Villagers Block US Patrol, Standoff and Gunfire Ensue, Russians Arrive to Defuse, Americans Leave

A Syrian villager reportedly shot to death, Americans called in warplanes

Most of northeastern Syria is under the military control of the some 40,000 Kurdish YPG militias, but the area is as much Arab as it is Kurdish demographics-wise.

The Syrian government presence consists of a small enclave near the city of Qamishli and recently, as part of a deal with the Kurds, a limited number of Syrian troops returned to the border with Turkey for a joint defense against the northern neighbor.

It seems Arab settlements have been heartened by the return of their military so that a village just outside the Syrian government enclave at Qamishli likewise started blocking US forces from entering.

That’s less than 5 km from the Turkish border

Today US patrol tried driving through the pro-government village of Khirbet Amo and was stopped by its villagers and fighters, either local NDF (National Defense Force) guardsmen, or some of the newly arrived Syrian troops posted to the border.

What happened next is sketchy. A standoff ensued, some reports say the villagers stoned the US convoy and the Americans returned live fire, killing one of the villagers. The Pentagon says its troops were fired on first. Other reports say the Americans then called in an airstrike on the village, while some say the Americans merely called in the aircraft to circle over the village. What is certain is that eventually the Russians arrived and after a while longer the Americans withdrew.

— UPDATE — According to one timeline, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at and hit one of the US mine-resistant vehicles causing but the slightest damage. The US troops then opened fire killing one person, perhaps the cocktail thrower, or the nearest protesting villager. It was after this that they were themselves fired on. The singular US warplane overhead was dropping flare munitions rather than bombs. When all this took place the Russians were already on the scene trying to calm things down but weren’t entirely successful.

It isn’t clear to me why the Americans were there at all, though. Last October they, under orders from Trump, fell back from the immediate border area to allow for a Turkish invasion. This was followed by the Russians moving in to contain the Turks in a way in which Trump was unwilling. Since they have abandoned their border-protection role to the Russians what are they still doing driving through the border buffer?

A very decent report by The Defense Post:


US forces clash with locals at Syrian regime checkpoint in Qamishli

U.S. forces on Wednesday clashed with civilians near Qamishli in northeast Syria near the Turkish border following a confrontation over an American convoy patrol.

The confrontation occurred at a pro-Syrian government National Defense Forces militia checkpoint in Khirbat Amo, Dirbat, east of Qamishli airport on the southern outskirts of the city, the Rojava Information Center said.

U.S. military personnel clashed with locals and shots were fired, according to RIC researcher Thomas McClure, who said a U.S. airstrike was visible from the group’s office.

“On Feb. 12, Coalition forces, conducting a patrol near Qamishli, Syria, encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian regime forces. After Coalition troops issued a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts, the patrol came under small arms fire from unknown individuals. In self-defense, Coalition troops returned fire. The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation. The Coalition patrol returned to base,” said Colonel Myles B. Caggins III, Coalition military spokesperson.

Caggins told The Defense Post there was no airstrike.

It was unclear whether the confrontation was between U.S. military personnel and the militia members, civilian protesters, or a mix of both. Russian forces later arrived at the scene to mediate, according to other reports.

Video posted to social media appeared to show at least four U.S. armored vehicles stopped on a road with military personnel on foot. A second video showed armored vehicles with Russian and Syrian flags.

One injured person in a Syrian Arab Army uniform was taken to a nearby hospital, McClure said, while Syrian state media SANA reported that a civilian was killed and another injured in the confrontation.

Residents attacked the convoy after U.S. soldiers opened fire on civilians, according to the SANA report, which has not been verified.

Later video from the SDF-linked North Press Agency showed a damaged U.S. vehicle being towed through a village.

The incident threatens to increase tensions between U.S. and Russian forces that back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army in already congested areas of northeast Syria.

Russian forces have patrolled the surrounding area since October when Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies launched an incursion into parts of SDF-held territory to oust the force from the border region.

Russia has occupied the Qamishli airport since mid-November.

A small number of U.S. troops remain in the country after President Donald Trump said he would withdraw the majority of forces from Syria. Trump later reversed course and said he would leave a small number to protect critical oil fields and prevent them from falling into the hands of the regime or Iran, but American troops still remain in areas held by the Syrian Democratic Forces in the northeast.

Security control of Qamishli, the de facto capital of the self-declared autonomous region of North and East Syria, is split between the SDF and Syrian government.

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