On Monday US occupying forces and the Syrian Army exchanged fire in a rare direct clash, reportedly ending in casualties on the Syrian government side.
It happened in northeast Hasakah province just southeast of Qamishili, in an area where for the past couple years American special forces have bolstered Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Associated Press writes of the rare but not without precedent deadly encounter:
U.S. forces clashed with Syrian troops in the northeast on Monday, killing at least one soldier and wounding two others, state media said, while the U.S. military said it responded to small arms fire near a Syrian checkpoint.
It appears to have all started when a US military convoy approached a Syrian national checkpoint manned by soldiers.
Like with some prior confrontations, the Syrian soldiers refused to let the Americans through, given Damascus sees them as illegal occupiers of their sovereign soil. This was similar to incident last month where bloodshed was barely avoided, and US armored vehicles were forced to turn around.
In that prior instance pro-government forces threatened to fire on the Americans.
But in this instance, it appears firepower was unleashed. A US helicopter was also reportedly part of the response, according to state-run SANA. AP continues:
State news agency SANA quoted an unnamed Syrian military official as saying 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.
The US ground convoy had been ordered by Syrian Army forces to turn around at “Rasho Checkpoint,” regional reports say.
There were initial reports that a major airstrike may have been conducted, but official Pentagon statements have denied this.
While some pro-Syrian government sources say the Americans took on casualties during the clash, no official casualties have been reported by the US military.