U.S. Officials: Russia violated protocols to prevent clashes with Americans in North and East Syria

DAYRIK, Syria — As part of their ongoing rivalry over influence in North and East Syria, a number of U.S. soldiers were injured, some of them with symptoms of concussions, as a result of a Russian patrol colliding with their vehicle near Dayrik (Al-Malikiyah) on Wednesday.

U.S. and Russian forces have repeatedly come into, often tense, contact with one another in Gozarto (Jazira) Region.

In response to Wednesday’s incident, White House National Security Council Spokesperson John Elliott said such unsafe and unprofessional actions violate the protocols for preventing clashes which were approved by the United States and Russia in 2019.

Elliott added that the coalition patrol had left the region in order not to escalate the situation, and that the United States and the International Coalition were not seeking an escalation with the military forces of any country, but reserved the right to defend themselves against any hostile actions.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces General Mark A. Milley made a phone call to the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, to reach an understanding and ease tensions between the two sides.

This incident is not the first of its kind between U.S. and Russian forces in North and East Syria, but it highlights the dangers involved in the presence of forces from both countries, which are active in close to each other.

The most serious incident between the two sides occurred in February 2018 when an advancing Syrian–Russian forces was nearly wiped out by U.S. air strikes.

A small detachment of U.S. Special Operations Forces based in Dayro Zcuro (Deir ez-Zor) were targeted by the advancing force consisting of Syrian soldiers and Russian mercenaries from the Kremlin–directed Wagner Group.

In response, the U.S. conducted continuous air operations until the opposing force was annihilated. Of the estimated 500 Syrians and Russians making up the advancing force, upwards of 300 were killed.

Only one member of the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces was injured.