Syrian ire follows apparent US raid across Iraq's border
Damascus lashed out at Washington over charges that American forces killed at least eight civilians when US helicopters were on a mission to shut down insurgent 'rat lines.'
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Syrian state media reported that four US helicopters entered Syrian airspace around 4:45 p.m. Sunday and struck a construction site in the al-Boukamal region.
An unnamed US military official quoted by the Associated Press (AP) confirmed the attack, saying the US was trying to shut down "rat lines" sending Al Qaeda-linked insurgents and other foreign fighters into Iraq from Syria.
The raid appears to be straining already tense US-Syrian relations, even as Syria has reached out to the Iraqi government and Lebanon, entered into indirect talks with Israel, and held talks with the European Union.
SANA, the Syrian Arab News Agency, quoting an unnamed "official media source," said the helicopters attacked a civilian site about five miles inside Syria, "leading to the martyrdom of eight citizens," including the building guard and his wife.
Citing an "official source," SANA said the Syrian government had summoned the top American diplomat in Damascus to condemn and complain about the "dangerous aggression." The Iraq chargé d'affaires was also summoned, the report said.
Agence France-Presse quoted a commentary in the Syrian government newspaper Tishrin Monday: "The American forces from Iraq committed cold-blooded murder.... They committed a war crime in killing eight Syrian civilians in a quiet village."
AP reported Monday that clergy were preparing the dead for burial as angry Syrian villagers chanted, "May God's wrath fall on them." The report quoted Jumaa Ahmad al-Hamad – a nephew of one of the dead – who saw the helicopters open fire on the building.