US and Syrian forces and local residents have engaged in a tense war of position in the country’s northeast in recent months, with Syrian troops and locals repeatedly blocking American convoys attempting to make their way through local communities. Fortunately, most of these incidents have taken place without either side resorting to deadly force.
Residents of the villages of Abu Qasaeib and al-Rhaia al-Souda in the al-Qamishli district, Al-Hasakah governorate banded together to intercept and turn back a US convoy of five vehicles, preventing them from traveling through their communities along a key local road, the Syrian Arab News Agency has reported.
Video footage reportedly shot outside one of the villages shows locals, activists and troops singing songs and waving a Syrian flag after engaging the US convoy in a short standoff and forcing it to turn back. No gunfire was exchanged and no one was hurt in either of the incidents.
This is said to have been the second time in two weeks that the US military has attempted to drive through the area.
At least two similar incidents took place in the nearby village of Hamo earlier this month. In these, US military vehicles and Syrian Democratic Forces militia attempted to pass through, but were reported to have been turned back by locals gathered at a Syrian Army checkpoint.
Hamo residents repeatedly blocked US military convoys from attempting to pass through their community last month as well, preventing convoys of between six and 11 vehicles from driving through. Before that, media reported that Syrian troops and angry locals stopped a US convoy consisting of 7 vehicles while it tried to pass through Kuzelia and al-Basha, also in al-Hasakah. In the former incident, locals reportedly pelted the convoy with stones and cursed at US troops.
Similar incidents have been reported going back to February, with some of them turning violent.
The US has yet to comment on any of the incidents or to present its account of what took place, or what its forces are doing in the area.
The US has quietly built up its presence in northeastern Syria in recent months, reportedly dispatching nearly three dozen truckloads of military and logistical equipment into northeastern Syria from Iraq last week. Before that, media reported that US troops had begun construction of a new military base near the town of Tell Brak, with the base reportedly meant to prevent Syrian and Russian forces from reaching the Rmelan oil field.
Syria has repeatedly demanded that all uninvited occupying forces vacate its territory in accordance with international law. The US moved to consolidate its control over oil-rich areas of northeastern Syria late last year, with President Trump openly admitting that the US mission had switched from guarding the border with Turkey to “keeping the oil.”