The most senior US general visits US forces in Syria amid condemnation from Damascus

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, visited northeastern Syria on Saturday, amid an official protest by the Syrian government.

In a statement, Milley’s spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said Milley met with US forces in northeastern Syria who are there as part of the Defeat ISIS campaign and inspected force protection measures.

Two weeks before Milley’s visit, US and coalition forces in Green Village in Syria came under a missile attack, according to US Central Command, which said two missiles landed near the base. No US or coalition forces were injured, and there was no damage to the base.

Just two days ago, four American soldiers and a working dog were wounded in a helicopter strike targeting a senior ISIS leader in northeastern Syria. US Central Command said the strike killed Hamza al-Homsi.

On the other hand, Syria condemned Milli’s “illegal visit” to an “illegal” US military base, saying it was a “flagrant violation of its sovereignty, sanctity and territorial integrity,” according to statements made by an official source in the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the official news agency (SANA), on Sunday.

The source said, “Syria strongly condemns this flagrant violation by the US military official of the sovereignty, inviolability of its territory and territorial integrity, and calls on the US administration to immediately stop its systematic and continuous violations of international law, and stop its support for separatist armed militias.”

The source told SANA, “It is no secret to anyone the catastrophic situation of the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the US administration on Syria.”

The United States maintains about 900 troops in Syria. While in the country, Milley also reviewed the ongoing repatriation efforts from the Al-Hol refugee camp, which is home to more than 60,000 displaced people, including 25,000 children.

The repatriation effort has been a particular focus of Gen. Eric Korella, commander of US Central Command, who has visited the camp three times since taking over on April 1. Korella’s last visit was in mid-November, when he warned that children in the camp were “prime targets for ISIS extremism”.

In February, US forces conducted 15 joint operations with local forces, including the Syrian Kurdish Defense Forces, in addition to two US-only operations, according to US Central Command. According to the Central Command, five ISIS operatives were killed in the attack, and 11 others were arrested.

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