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Syria: No injuries as rockets target US base in latest strike

US Central Command says base hit by third such attack in nine days
US army soldiers prepare to go out on patrol from a remote combat outpost on 25 May 2021 in northeastern Syria (AFP)
US army soldiers prepare to go out on patrol from a remote combat outpost on 25 May 2021 in northeastern Syria (AFP)

Two rockets targeted a US patrol base in northeastern Syria late Friday in the third such attack in nine days, US Central Command has said.

Centcom did not indicate who fired the rockets but said, in a statement, that they were aimed at "coalition forces at the US patrol base in Al-Shaddadi, Syria".

The strike at about 10:30 pm local time caused no injuries or damage to the base or coalition property, said Centcom, which covers the Middle East region.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is supported by US troops, visited the rocket origin site and “found a third unfired rocket”, Centcom added in its latest statement. 

Hundreds of American troops are still in Syria as part of the fight against remnants of the Islamic State (IS) in the area.

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On 17 November, rockets targeted the coalition's Green Village base, which is in Syria's largest oil field, Al-Omar, near the Iraqi border, Centcom said at the time. There were no injuries.

A war monitor, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a wide network of sources in Syria, said the strike came from "a base of pro-Iranian militias".

Such groups have significant influence in the Syria-Iraq border region.

Meanwhile, Turkey has been conducting a series of fighter jet and drone attacks throughout northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which dominate the SDF, leaving fatalities amongst both fighters and civilians.

The attacks came in response to the Istanbul bombing earlier this month which Ankara blamed on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is affiliated with the SDF.

This has drawn American criticism for the proximity of strikes to nearby coalition bases, where US soldiers are stationed.

In a Turkish drone strike on Tuesday, two SDF fighters were killed in an attack that posed "a risk to US troops", Centcom told AFP earlier.

That strike hit a base north of Hassakeh city, also in Syria's northeast but farther north.

Turkey says it is targeting rear bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, and the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which dominate the SDF.

Both Kurdish groups denied responsibility for the Istanbul bomb attack that killed six people and wounded 81 on 13 November. 

Imminent Turkish offensive 

On Friday, sources told Middle East Eye that Turkish and Russian officials are negotiating a small-scale Turkish military operation to remove Syrian Kurdish fighters from the west of the Euphrates river in the coming weeks.

The operation, if it goes forward, would be the fourth of its kind mounted by Ankara in northern Syria since 2016. It would be conducted with the declared purpose of combating threats to Turkey from the IS group and PKK-allied Syrian Kurdish groups, as well as enabling the resettlement of internally displaced Syrians. 

Turkey and Russia negotiate small-scale military operation in northern Syria
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In June, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened an offensive against the cities of Tal Rifaat and Manbij in the Aleppo province, which was slowed down due to Russian mediation between Ankara and Damascus.

Sources familiar with the negotiations say Tal Rifaat might be amongst the targeted sites in an upcoming offensive.  

Tal Rifaat is significant due to its strategic position, sandwiched between Turkish and Syrian government forces, and has at times become a point of frustration for Ankara due to repeated deadly attacks on its positions by the YPG in the area.

“The YPG has conducted at least 100 attacks on Syrian rebel-held territories and Turkish military bases in the form of rockets, anti-tank missiles, cannon fire, and multiple rocket launchers,” a military source told MEE in June. 

The source added that the YPG-held Menagh airbase, which the Kurdish group captured in 2016 with the help of Russian air strikes, has also been a strategic location for enemy forces from which they can target the Turkish city of Kilis.

Ankara claims that since the YPG captured the area from Syrian rebels in 2016, 250,000 Syrian Arabs have fled Tal Rifaat for the Turkish-controlled Syrian city of Azaz.

It is not immediately clear what Iran's reaction towards a Turkish operation in northern Syria would be since Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-allied militias are actively participating in Syrian government efforts to guard northern Aleppo and Tal Rifaat.

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