On 17 August, the spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed reports earlier in the day of a exchange of fire between Coalition forces and Syrian regime forces at a checkpoint in northeastern Syria.
The Twitter account of Colonel Myles B. Caggins III, the official spokesperson for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, uploaded a press statement confirming the exchange of fire, stating that the incident happened at 9:20AM local time outside the town of Tal Al-Zahab. Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces conducting a “routine anti-ISIS security patrol” had been granted safe passage through the checkpoint when the patrol came under small arms fire from individuals in the vicinity of the checkpoint, with Coalition troops returning fire in self defense. No casualties were taken by Coalition forces, and the patrol returned to base afterwards.
The press statement denied that Coalition forces had conducted an airstrike on the checkpoint, following claims by Syrian state media that two Coalition aircraft performed an airstrike on the checkpoint after the patrol was denied passage through the checkpoint. Similarly, Colonel Caggins stated to Military Times that US helicopters were in the area, but “did not shoot at the checkpoint or anywhere else.” This follows a separate claim by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that attack helicopters had engaged the checkpoint.
While Coalition forces suffered no casualties, Syrian state media reports that one Syrian Arab Army soldier manning the checkpoint was killed, with two other soldiers wounded.
The incident is the first time Coalition forces have engaged elements of the Syrian Arab Army in northeastern Syria, and the first direct clashes between them since the Battle of Kasham in February 2018. There was a previous attack on a Coalition patrol in February this year in the vicinity of an SAA checkpoint in Qamishli, also in northeastern Syria, but they do not appear to be connected.