U.S. Department of Defense said on Friday that claims Russian authorities made about U.S. war crimes near At Tanf in Syria were not true.
Earlier in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry said displaced people living in Rukban camp near the Syria-Iraq-Jordan triborder area were used as “human shields” for the U.S. military base in the area. The Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria claimed people could not get access to humanitarian and medical aid.
“These statements are not true. Throughout the conflict in Syria the U.S. has provided extensive financial and operational support to U.N. agencies operating in Rukban. The U.S. has advised the Russians that we are prepared to help facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid, but the Syrian regime has prevented those efforts,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said in a statement.
Russia and the United States have agreed on a 55km deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison – where the U.S.-led Coalition trains vetted Syrian opposition group Maghawir al-Thawra – to avoid accidental conflict between opposing forces.
“Understandably, Syrian civilians have fled into this zone to flee bombing of non-military targets – their homes – outside the 55km line,” Pahon said. “The Russians should focus their efforts on pressuring the Syrian regime to allow U.N. humanitarian aid convoys to reach the camp and provide needed aid.”
In October, Russian defense ministry spokesperson Major-General Igor Konashenkov claimed that Islamic State uses the At Tanf deconfliction zone to carry out terrorist attacks and that refugees in the Rukban refugee camp were human shields for the nearby base. A Coalition spokesperson told The Defense Post that the allegations were false and that partner forces at At Tanf were engaging “the same ISIS forces that are attacking Syrian regime forces there.”