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US lawmakers make unannounced trip to northwest Syria

The three Republican lawmakers visited a school for displaced children during their short visit.

WASHINGTON — A group of US lawmakers quietly traveled to opposition-controlled northwest Syria for a brief visit with aid workers on Sunday.  

Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.), Ben Cline (R-Va.) and Scott Fitzgerald (R-Wis.) entered Syria with a Turkish military escort through the Bab al-Salam border crossing. While in the northern Aleppo countryside, they visited a school for displaced children that is run by the Syrian Emergency Task Force, the Washington-based advocacy group that organized their trip. 

It is rare for US lawmakers to visit Syria. In 2018, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) met with local officials in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. The late Arizona Sen. John McCain made a surprise visit to the Kurdish-controlled northeast in 2017 to meet with US forces stationed there. Tulsi Gabbard, a former Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a controversial visit to Damascus that same year. 

The conflict has slowed to a stalemate in the years since. Assad’s forces have reclaimed a majority of the country with the help of Russia and Iran, aside from a Kurdish-run enclave in the northeast and parts of northern Syria controlled by Turkish-backed armed groups and the al-Qaeda-derived Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.  

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