U.S. Congress members enter opposition-held Syria through Turkish border

Three Republican U.S. Congress members visited opposition-held Syria, signaling increased support for Syria's opposition and underscoring the U.S. stance against Assad's government's actions.

Three Republican members of the U.S. Congress made a quick trip on Sunday into opposition-held northwest Syria through the Turkish border in the first known visit to the war-torn country by American lawmakers in six years, the Associated Press reported. The move is a testament to the growing support on Capitol Hill for Syria's opposition in the decade-long civil war.

U.S. Rep. French Hill of Arkansas, one of the three lawmakers, told The Associated Press by telephone after leaving Syria that the trip was the latest of his several to the region this summer to press the U.S. government and Arab allies to continue pushing for a political resolution to the war.

Hill has been advocating for the U.S. government and its Arab allies to remain steadfast in seeking a political solution to the war. Representing the sentiments of many Syrians, Hill conveyed, "those in Syria who want to have their own representative government.”

The lawmakers' journey arises amid a shift in the Middle East, with leaders reestablishing ties with Assad, a move at odds with U.S. strategy to maintain his diplomatic isolation. The U.S. stance comes in response to Assad's notorious use of chemical weapons against his people, as reported by the United Nations.

Accompanying Hill were Reps. Ben Cline of Virginia and Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin. They entered Syria via the Bab al-Salama crossing from Turkey, situated in northern Aleppo province.

Their welcoming party consisted of orphaned children from the Wisdom House, an educational establishment for orphans sponsored by the U.S.-based Syrian Emergency Task Force, which also orchestrated the lawmakers’ trip. Hill noted the generous contributions from his Arkansas constituents to this school, making the visit an emotionally charged one for him.

In their short visit, the legislators met with opposition and humanitarian representatives, including Raed Saleh, the chief of the White Helmets. This renowned volunteer group is credited with rescuing civilians from bombed structures. Saleh discussed the Syrian conflict's political dynamics and the humanitarian response to a recent earthquake affecting Turkey and Syria.

Due to security reasons, the trip's details remained undisclosed until completion. Hill later addressed the media from Turkey, where the delegation also participated in several meetings.

The most recent known trip by a U.S. legislator to Syria took place in 2017 when Senator John McCain visited U.S. troops stationed in the Kurdish northeastern part of Syria. Additionally, in the same year, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard faced criticism for her Damascus visit and subsequent meeting with Assad.

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