DAMASCUS – A Syrian was killed and another wounded when government supporters attacked American troops and tried to block their way as their convoy drove through an army checkpoint in northeastern Syria, prompting a rare clash, state media and activists reported.
The U.S. military said its force came under fire, and that troops responded in self-defense. It said an investigation of the incident was underway.
Syrian state-run media said the man killed was a civilian and that he was among residents of a village east of the town of Qamishli who had gathered at the checkpoint and pelted the U.S. convoy with stones.
A video posted on state news agency SANA's website showed angry men firing small arms at a convoy of several armored U.S. vehicles flying the U.S. flag. Some residents pelted the convoy with stones, while another dumped a bucket full of dirt on the back of one vehicle.
In one of the worst incidents of violence against U.S. troops deployed in northeastern Syria, a small fire appears to ignite on an armored vehicle. U.S. soldiers were seen standing in the middle of the melee, trying to disperse the crowd. Other videos showed another vehicle stuck in the dirt, apparently having veered into a ditch, while another had a flat tire. In one video, a resident walked up to U.S. soldiers at one of the vehicles, holding a U.S. flag, screaming: “What do you want from our country? What is your business here?” A soldier tells the shouting man to “back off.”
At that point, American troops fired live ammunition and smoke bombs at the residents, the reports said.
In other violence in the country's northwest, Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces continued their advance in Idlib and Aleppo provinces near the border with Turkey. They took full control of a strategic highway that runs through the rebel-held territory and links the capital to northern Syria. The M5 highway had been under opposition control for most of the war.
With support from Russia, Syrian troops have been on the offensive for weeks in Idlib and parts of nearby Aleppo provinces, unleashing a humanitarian crisis with 700,000 people fleeing their homes and surging north toward the Turkish border.