Russian forces have blocked an American military convoy, comprising four armored vehicles, in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah province.
Russia’s RT television network reported on Monday that Russian personnel had stopped the US military patrol along the M4 highway, some 10 kilometers west of the town of Tall Tamr.
Informed sources said the US convoy was forced to return because it had violated security protocols between Moscow and Washington.
Russia said the US had not given prior notice regarding its troops’ movements in Hasakah.
Hasakah is occupied by American soldiers and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-Damascus alliance of mainly Kurdish militants. Turkey also controls areas in the province and elsewhere following military operations in northern Syria.
Russia has been helping Syrian forces in ongoing battles across the conflict-plagued state, mainly providing aerial support to ground operations against foreign-backed terrorists.
The Russian military assistance, which began in September 2015 at the request of the Damascus government, has proved effective as Syrians continue to recapture key areas from Takfiri elements.
However, the United States has deployed forces and military equipment in Syria without any authorization from Damascus or the UN.
It has long been training militants and stealing Syria’s oil, ignoring repeated calls by Damascus to end its occupation of the country.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister says the US is smuggling oil and grain from Syria while people in the war-torn country are suffering from acute shortage of basic products.
Russia: US exacerbated humanitarian situation in Syria
In another development on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov complained that the humanitarian situation in Syria has been aggravated by the US through its illegal sanctions and occupation of the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
“They are looting hydrocarbons and other mineral resources, and use the money they earn on that to finance projects that are seen by many as encouraging separatism and provoking dissolution of the Syrian state,” he said after talks with Helga Schmid, the secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
He also warned against attempts by the United States and some European countries to hamper the return of Syrian refugees, noting that the Western assistance goes to camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon so as “to make the refugees stay there as long as possible.”
Lavrov further expressed Moscow’s readiness to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria with the Western states if they recognize their responsibility in this regard.
“If the set of these factors is recognized as impacting the humanitarian situation in Syria, we are ready to discuss that as a whole. But our Western partners should categorically refuse from one-sided interpretations of these or those problems, and recognize their responsibility for the general situation in Syria’s humanitarian sphere,” he said.
Syria Accuses US Forces of Smuggling Wheat, Oil to Iraq
Syria accused US forces of using a military convoy to smuggle stolen wheat to northern Iraq through the al-Walid border crossing in the Hasakah region.
The Syrian News Agency (SANA) reported that a convoy of 45 vehicles of covered trucks, oil tankers and a number of refrigerators left the Syrian territories towards Iraq on Monday.
The trucks were loaded with wheat from the silos of Tal Alo and left through the al-Walid crossing.
SANA said the American troops brought out a convoy of 27 military vehicles, including Hummer cars and armored vehicles, trucks laden with stolen wheat and oil tankers stolen from the Syrian oil fields.
Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seized oil tankers that were on their way to areas under the regime’s control.
Dozens of tankers belonging to the Katerji company were seen heading to regime-held regions and were seized upon their arrival at the Tabqa Bridge checkpoint, west of Raqqa. Some of the drivers were arrested for unknown reasons.
Eye of the Euphrates network reported that 250 tankers were transporting oil from al-Hasakah towards regime-controlled areas. Twelve drivers were held by SDF.
The network added that they will be transferred to the security investigation, without providing additional details.
He was referred to investigation over charges of oil smuggling and dealing with the US Army and SDF.
Meanwhile, the SDF, in coordination with the operations room of the US-led international coalition, carried out a military security campaign to track down active ISIS cells in Wadi al-Ajij, in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.
A military leader said that the forces destroyed many hideouts, and uncovered roads and tunnels used by militants to smuggle weapons across the Syrian-Iraqi border.
An SDF spokesman, Farhad Shami, announced that the operation targeted a desert area where ISIS movement was detected and that was used to smuggle mercenaries and weapons into Syrian territory.
This is the second security campaign carried out by the SDF, with coalition air support, within a month.
The SDF had launched numerous campaigns to pursue ISIS remnants, however, they have yet to stop terrorist activity in the region.