Villagers in the Syrian town of Showaiyeh were woken on Thursday night by heavy fighting in Al-Qaim, one mile away. But Al-Qaim is across the border in war torn Iraq, and Showaiyeh is on the Syrian side of the border.
Residents hear the sound of warplanes, and bombing, which shake their houses to the foundation. They watched helicopters attack the town from their rooftops, and hear small arms return fire.
“Smoke was rising in the air from al-Qaim” said one Syrian.
This is the area where Syria built a 12 foot high sand barrier in November last year, under American pressure.
The US occupying forces in Iraq have accused Syria of not preventing fighters cross the border into Iraq at hotspots like Al-Qaim. That’s how the justified the assult on Al-Qaim. But Al-Qaim’s Mayor scoffed at claims that Syrians had passed through his town. Syrian residents near the border have been watching as Syria has pulled down the shutters between the two countries. There are rumours that American special forces will soon launch a small ground mission into Syria to pick up insurgents.
The fact remains: out of the 10,000 people in Iraqi jails accused of fighting, only 56 are Syrian – there are more Jordanians.
UPDATE: Syrian troops have been moving towards the border, after reports that the American army pushed insurgents out of Al-Qaim in the direction of the Syrian border. (If insurgents cross into Syria, can Syria complain that America isn’t doing enough to prevent fighters entering Syria?)