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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

US-Russia Skirmish in Northern Syria Leads to Minor US Injuries

By Edward Yeranian August 27, 2020

U.S. coalition and Russian military patrols narrowly avoided a serious mishap in the north of Syria Tuesday when vehicles from each side appeared to have tried to outrun each other in a wheat field in northeastern Hasakah province.

Arab news channels broadcast Russian video of the incident between U.S. and Russian patrols Tuesday, in which American armored vehicles appeared to drive alongside Russian vehicles, with a collision occurring at one point. It was not immediately clear who was to blame.

U.S. news outlet Politico reported that four American soldiers were injured. Arab media reported that U.S. troops in one vehicle suffered "minor concussions."

Syrian state TV, quoting Russian Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, said Moscow had informed the U.S. about the movements of its forces before the incident took place.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot called the Russian vehicles' conduct "unsafe and unprofessional," maintaining that their actions "represent a breach of deconfliction protocols, committed to by the United States and Russia in December 2019."

He added, "The coalition and the U.S. do not seek escalation with any national military forces," but that "U.S. forces always retain the inherent right and obligation to defend themselves from hostile acts."

Video on social media from a previous incident between U.S. and Russian forces in May show that at a Russian military checkpoint, U.S. vehicles were prevented from using a highway near the Syrian government-held town of Qamishli.

Joshua Landis, who heads the Middle East program at the University of Oklahoma, told VOA that incidents like the one on Tuesday "will surely increase in the future," saying, "With so many armies and militias all claiming legitimate control of the same small territory, conflict and provocation are to be expected."

U.S. President Donald Trump called for the withdrawal of American forces from northeastern Syria in late 2019, following a Turkish offensive against Kurdish forces along the border.

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