For the first time in about a year, Syrian pro-government forces and the US-led coalition found themselves engaged in what seems to be direct clashes near the village of Tal al-Dhahab in northeastern Syria.
Syrian sources said that on August 17 an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter struck a checkpoint of the Syrian Army in the province of al-Hasakah after the Syrian Army and pro-government locals blocked a US military convoy in the area. According to state-run news agency SANA, the strike killed a soldier and injured two others.
It is interesting to note that according to the US-led coalition version of events, the US military convoy came under gunfire from unidentified persons, when it was passing the army checkpoint. Then, US forces returned fire. No airstrikes were conducted according to the US statement.
Tal al-Dhahab is located south of the city of Qamishli. A large number of positions of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the US-led coalition are located the countryside of the city. US forces regularly conduct patrols around the city. These patrols often try to block the movement of the Russian Military Police convoys in the very same area.
In its own turn, the Syrian Army, pro-government locals and even the Russian Military Police also block try to block US military convoys. However, the August 17 situation became the first incident when such developments led to a real confrontation between the sides. Taking into account the intensity of interactions in the Syria-US-Russia triangle, this situation is setting up a dangerous precedent that may lead to a wider confrontation between the sides.
ISIS conducted several successful attacks on positions of the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces in the provinces of Homs and Deir Ezzor. According to pro-opposition sources, at least 5 soldiers and several civilians were killed there in the last few weeks. As of August 18, the army and its local allies are reportedly preparing to conduct another series of anti-ISIS raids in the desert.
The ISIS threat still remains an important but destabilizing factor in the central Syrian desert, but government forces lack resources to fully eliminate it.
Meanwhile, the military situation once again dangerously escalated in Greater Idlib. On August 17, a joint Turkish-Russian patrol came under an attack near the village of Arihah on the M4 highway. The explosion of supposed an improvised explosive device targeted a Turksih Kirpi armoured vehicle. The attack took place in the same area where the joint Russian-Turkish patrol was hit by a car bomb on July 14.
In both cases, Turkish sources almost immediately speculated that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) may have been behind the attacks claiming that the groups supposedly active in the area. This is a lie. Neither the YPG nor the PKK have any active presence in southern Idlib.
Contrary to Turkish fairy tales, the only terrorist groups active in this part of Idlib are Turkish-sponsored terrorists like Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party and others. The Turkish unwillingness to get rid of its pocket al-Qaeda supporters is the main source of the instability there.
Therefore, Turkish soldiers in Idlib die to protect al-Qaeda from the inevitable defeat in the event of a direct confrontation with the Syrian Army and its allies.