BY: LUIS MARTINEZ
(DAMASCUS, Syria) — Four U.S. military personnel were injured Tuesday when their vehicle was side-swiped by a Russian military armored vehicle during a tense encounter with Russian troops in eastern Syria, according to a U.S. official. Multiple videos posted on social media showed a chaotic scene between American and Russian military vehicles and a Russian helicopter that hovered above a U.S. vehicle for an extended period.
The incident occurred on Tuesday as a U.S. military patrol encountered a Russian military patrol in eastern Syria.
The service members were injured when the armored vehicle they were riding in was side-swiped by a Russian armored vehicle after what a U.S. official characterized as a “reckless move.”
The injuries to the U.S. service members were characterized as concussive-type injuries that were minor in nature, the U.S. official said.
Russian military helicopters in the vicinity also hovered above the tops of the American vehicles for some time, according to the official.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the Russian General Staff by telephone on Wednesday to discuss the incident.
“In accordance with past practice, both have agreed to keep the specific details of their conversation private,” said Col. DeDe Halfhill, the spokesperson for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
At least 500 American troops continue to operate in eastern Syria to help protect oil fields operated by Kurdish forces. American troops come into almost daily contact with Russian military forces that operate in northern Syria, and U.S. officials say the large majority of those interactions are professional in nature.
But the U.S. official said Tuesday’s incident occurred “clearly inside the eastern security zone that the Russians have agreed to stay out of.”
A U.S. official confirmed that videos posted by Russian websites captured Tuesday’s chaotic incident.
One video appears to show an apparent collision between an American armored vehicle and a Russian armored vehicle.
At one point, a Russian military helicopter hovered directly above a stationary American vehicle in an apparent attempt to make it move from its location
The Pentagon did not have immediate comment on the incident or the reported injuries.
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