PHOTO/REUTERS – The U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter
“A plane of the American occupation forces has dropped several heat balloons on the agricultural lands of Shaddadi field, south of Al-Hasaka, setting fire to the wheat crops in this province” warned the Syrian news agency SANA on May 17. Just one week later, this same agency has published a report indicating that Trump ordered US forces to burn hectares and hectares of these harvests.
The US forces used Apache helicopters to allegedly launch heat balloons, causing several fires and burning more than 200 dunums (surface unit) of wheat fields in the village of Adla, in the Shaddadi field, south of Al-Hasaka, according to the information published in this agency which has also pointed out that these helicopters made “provocative flights”, as they got too close to “people’s homes and agricultural fields”, causing “panic and fear”, in the population, especially among children.
“During their illegal presence, the US occupation forces established bases in several areas of Jazira, supplying them with weapons and logistical equipment through illegal crossings with Iraq to reinforce their presence and steal Syria’s oil, resources and main crops,” the SANA news agency reported last week. However, the new report by the SANA-International Business Times website blames the US for being behind the fires that broke out in this region. The report states that the US has not only “tightened its enforcement measures”, but has also “deliberately set fire to farmers’ land to prevent them from selling their crops to the Syrian state”.
The report titled ‘Confirmed: Trump ordered Syria’s wheat crop to burn during the pandemic’ claims that U.S. forces were carrying out the orders of the U.S. president. “U.S. forces, in addition to illegally occupying Syria, have used weapons to burn 200 acres of wheat fields in Adla, south of Al-Hasaka. This is their ‘freedom’? These are their beloved troops? This is a war crime. Where is the condemnation? Where is the UN,” activist Richard Medhurst has asked himself on the social network Twitter. “All this destruction and misery makes no sense. It deliberately starves dozens of people, ruining their homes and livelihoods. Only monsters behave like this,” he added.
As this report is being published, millions of people in northeast Syria continue to be victims of the destruction of infrastructure and the lack of fundamental basic services, in addition to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus that has also affected one of the cruellest conflicts of this century. The International Committee of the Red Cross has reported that only one of the 16 hospitals in the north-east is fully operational and more than half of the public health centres are out of service. “Sporadic water shortages disrupt daily life and undermine people’s ability to take basic hygiene precautions to cope with COVID-19. In some places, generators have become the only source of power,” they said.
“For millions of people in north-eastern Syria, the consequences of the fighting, shortages of water, food and medicines, lack of electricity, economic recession with job losses and rising prices are as worrying as the coronavirus, and possibly even more so at the moment,” warned Karim Mahmoud, head of the ICRC office in Al-Hasaka.
The fires in the wheat fields of the Al-Jazeera region have occurred at the same time as Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has said that the current global pandemic has led to an alarming increase in food insecurity. An estimated 9.3 million people across Syria are now food insecure, compared to 7.9 million six months ago. Meanwhile, the number of civilian killings in the country is increasing, and there are indications that terrorist groups such as Daesh see the pandemic as an opportunity to regroup and perpetrate violence, according to a statement issued by the UN.
The Syrian delegate to the UN also reminded Council members that Damascus has repeatedly called on the United Nations to end the “economic, commercial, financial and health terrorism that the country is suffering from through unilateral coercive sanctions”. In this conflict, Russia supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, while Turkey and the United States support the rebels. Since the beginning of the conflict, the country’s government and the Syrian citizens themselves have expressed their rejection of the United States’ presence in the country. In this context, the American army has set up a new base in May in the enclave of Deir Ezzor, in the east of Syria.