Rockets fired at US base in northern Syria as fears of escalation grow

US envoy for north-east Syria calls for 'immediate de-escalation' after Turkish attacks on Kurdish groups

Smoke rises from an oil depot after a Turkish air strike near the town of Qamishli in north-east Syria. AP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Two rockets targeted a US military patrol base in north-eastern Syria on Friday night amid heightened tensions in the region following Turkey's attacks targeting Kurdish groups.

The US Central Command said the rocket attack on the base in Al Shaddadi, about 100km from the Turkey-Syria border, did not cause any injuries or damage.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a paramilitary force dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, found a third unfired rocket at the site from where the missiles were launched, Centcom said.

The attack followed a renewed call by the US for immediate de-escalation after days of deadly air strikes and shelling along the Syria-Turkey border.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack but the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said militias backed by Iran could have been culpable.

While ISIS has sometimes fired rockets at coalition bases in Iraq and Syria, the method of attack is more commonly used by Iran-backed militia groups, which often launch inaccurate rockets named Katyushas, after similar artillery used by the former Soviet Union.

Coalition and Iraqi forces have regularly found Iran-made Fajr rockets, modern variants of the weapon. Joint US-Kurdish militia bases in Syria often come under attack from Iran-made drones, supplied to allied militias in Syria.

The rockets can be mounted on the back of lorries or Jeeps, enabling attackers to escape the launch area quickly.

US forces last came under rocket attack on November 18 at a base known as Green Village, in a Kurdish-controlled area of eastern Syria in Deir Ezzor governorate.

But the attacks carry the risk of US retaliation.

A similar attack on Green Village on August 15 led President Joe Biden to authorise "proportionate" air strikes to deter further attacks.

The first use of US military force under the Biden administration, in February 2021, was also in response to a rocket attack in Deir Ezzor, which was blamed on Iran-backed militias.

Turkey this week launched a wave of air strikes targeting armed Kurdish groups in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, in retaliation for a deadly November 13 bombing in Istanbul.

The groups have denied involvement in the bombing and say the Turkish strikes have killed civilians and threaten the anti-ISIS fight.

SOHR said 67 civilians, gunmen and soldiers have been killed in Turkish attacks in northern Syria.

Nikolas Granger, the US senior representative to north-eastern Syria, on Friday said Washington “strongly opposes military action that further destabilises the lives of communities and families in Syria and we want immediate de-escalation”.

The developments are “unacceptably dangerous and we are deeply concerned”, he said.

He said the strikes also endangered US military personnel in the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened a new military offensive against Kurdish groups in northern Syria. On Friday, he said Turkey would continue its “struggle against all kinds of terror inside and outside our borders”.

Updated: November 27, 2022, 10:28 AM