RAQQA/SHADADDI, Syria — “Boom, boom, boom!” The steady burst of munitions emanating from a sprawling US base in a desert outpost in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria has come to sound as natural as the crowing of cocks and the bleating of lambs to the inhabitants of Telle, a mud-caked Arab village that sits on its edge. “When we don’t hear those explosions, that is when we worry; that is when we lose our sleep,” said a local man who would identify himself only as Saleh.
“There are always noises coming from the base,” said Nawaf al-Abed, who grows vegetables for a living. “We don’t know if the Americans are firing or receiving fire,” he mused. “There is a wall between us. They keep to themselves.”
“I am afraid of the base. There is always the sound of gunfire,” said 15-year old Abdel Kader. Like many here, he dropped out of school to help sustain his 17-member family, including multiple half-siblings and his ailing father’s second spouse. “I am not curious about it. I have no desire to go there.”
Since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked and killed around 1,200 Israelis in a single day, the din has grown markedly louder as Iran-back Shiite militias continue to target coalition bases in Iraq and Syria with rockets and suicide drones. The action is part of a broader campaign to harass and ultimately drive US forces out of the region, with Yemen’s Houthi militias joining in the fight in the Red Sea. These Iran-backed groups hold the United States accountable for Israel's subsequent onslaught against Gaza, which has claimed at least 15,900 Palestinian lives so far.