In the second half of May 2020, Syrian, Arab and international media outlets posted news claiming that US forces in northeastern Syria have set fire to wheat and barley crops in the Syrian al-Jazira region, Hasaka province, complying with President Donald Trump’s orders. However, a thorough process of investigation and verification proved that US forces were not involved in the arsons that affected the crops during the reported period.
In a report published on 23 May 2020, the Syrian Arab News Agency / SANA cited Singapore-International Business Times, claiming that while flying close to the ground on the morning of 17 May 2020, a US-Apache helicopter dropped several thermal balloons setting fire to over 20 hectares of wheat fields in Adla village, al-Shadadi city, south of Hasaka city.
Arab and international media outlets, including Sky News Arabia and Sputnik News Agency, reported the same incident and referenced International Business Times as well. Published on 23 May 2020, Sputnik’s report added that on the evening of 22 May 2020, two US Apache helicopters dropped a number of thermal balloons while flying close to the ground over five villages extending between the towns of Tell Barak and al-Hawl, southeast Hasaka, setting over 250 hectares of cultivated agriculture land on fire, destroying, thus, wheat and barley crops ready for harvest.
Photo no. (1) – Taken from SANA, which published a report on 23 May 2020, citing International Business Time, claiming that US forces set fire to wheat and barley fields in the region of al-Jazira/Hasaka province, under President Donald Trump’s orders.
Photo no. (2) – Taken from Sky News Arabia, which published a report on 22 May 2020, titled: “Wheat arsons, Syria suspects are perpetuated by Turkey and US.” The report said that US forces and pro-Turkey armed groups have burned down wheat fields in Hasaka province.
Photo no. (3)- Taken from Sputnik News Agency, which published a report, titled: “Why did Trump order Syrian wheat crop be burned and how would Damascus retaliate?”, on 23 May 2020, saying that US helicopters set fire to hundreds of hectares of wheat and barley fields in five villages in the towns of Tell Barak and al-Hawl, southeastern Hasaka.
Syrians for Truth and Justice / STJ tracked evidence provided by open sources and interviewed witnesses from the areas where wheat and barley crops were burned in rural al-Shaddadi and the villages located between the towns of Tell Brak and al-Hawl, concluding that the claims that the US forces have perpetuated those fires are groundless.
At the end of the process of investigation and verification, it became clear that International Business Times, which SANA and other media outlets have referenced as a source for their reports, accusing US forces of burning wheat and barley crops in al-Jazira region / the Syrian province of Hasaka, has itself based its news on a report originally published by SANA on 17 May 2020.
Photo no. (4) –Taken from SANA-English, which posted a report on 17 May 2020, titled: “Thermal balloons dropped by US plane set fire to wheat crops in Hasaka countryside,” claiming that US forces have set on fire over 20 hectares of agricultural land cultivated with Wheat in Adla Village, rural al-Shadadi city, south of Hasaka city.
International Business Times cited information reported by an English-speaking Russian media outlet called Veterans Today, which, for its part, had taken the information it reported from a Chinese news agency called Xinhuanet, which was the first to quote the news reported by SANA.
While none of these media outlets provided evidence that President Donald Trump has commanded the burning of the crops, no comment was made by any US official on these accusations.
Photo no. (5) –Taken from International Business Times, which published a report on 21 May 2020, titled: “Trump ordered US Forces to Burn Hectares of Wheat Field in Syria amid CoVID-19 Pandemic: Russia Media.” In the report, the outlet, quoting SANA, claimed that US forces have set wheat fields ablaze in Syrian Hasaka province commanded by President Donald Trump.
Photo no. (6) – Taken from Veterans Today, an English-speaking Russian outlet, which published a report on 21 May 2020, titled: “CONFIRMED: Trump Ordered Syria’s Wheat Crop Burned During Pandemic,” claiming that a US Apache helicopter dropped a thermal balloon while flying over Adla village in rural al-Shadadi, causing a fire. The outlet added: “The military maneuver was delivering a clear message: don’t sell your wheat to the Syrian government.”
Addressing the claims that US forces have set fire to wheat and barley fields in the Syrian al-Jazira region /Hasaka province, STJ investigated into the news reporting that 20 hectares of wheat fields in Adla village, rural al-Shadadi city, south of Hasaka, were set afire on 17 May 2020 and interviewed a witnesses, who preferred to be called by the pseudonym Kh. Alo.
The witness recounted that the fire started as one of the area’s residents unintentionally threw a cigarette stub into the crops. He added that the Autonomous Administration-affiliated Internal Security Forces have embarked on an investigation after the field owner filed a complaint demanding a compensation from the convict.
Image No. (8) – Satellite image (showing the location of some fire incidents between May 14, 2020 and May 29, 2020). In the area of Adla, south of Al-Shaddadi city.
STJ also investigated into the news reporting the burning of more than 250 hectares of wheat and barley fields in the villages of al-Hwaish al-Shamali, Um Ghadeer, al-Juaimseh, al-Jailiyeh and Tell Shayer, located between the two towns of Tell Brak and al-Hawl, southeastern Hasaka on 22 May 2020 and met witnesses based in the area, who refused to reveal their names for security reasons.
The witnesses said that two US helicopters hovered above the area when the fires broke out; however, they refuted the claims that the US forces are involved in perpetuating them, stressing that the fire was started by a spark from the combine that was harvesting the crops.
 “Why did Trump order Syrian wheat crop be burned and how would Damascus retaliate?” Sputnik, 23 May 2020. Last visited: 26 June 2020. https://arabic.sputniknews.com/arab_world/202005231045513171-لماذا-أمر-ترامب-بحرق-مزارع-القمح-السورية-وكيف-سترد-دمشق؟/
 “Wheat arsons, Syria suspects are perpetuated by Turkey and US,” Sky News Arabia, 22 May 2020. Last visited: 26 June 2020. https://www.skynewsarabia.com/middle-east/1346429-حرائق-القمح-تثير-اتهامات-سورية-لأميركا-وتركيا
 “Trump ordered US Forces to Burn Hectares of Wheat Field in Syria amid CoVID-19 Pandemic: Russia Media,” International Business Times, 21 May 2020. Last visited: 26 June 2020. https://www.ibtimes.sg/trump-ordered-us-forces-burn-hectares-wheat-field-syria-amid-covid-19-pandemicrussia-media-45482?fbclid=IwAR14-9tiZop5iCUsVR2Jb2cW1pOLpEa7Q_irgAvzz21W3Q_-9zF-OG59nf4
 Steven Sahiounie. “CONFIRMED: Trump Ordered Syria’s Wheat Crop Burned During Pandemic,” Veterans Today, 21 May 2020. Last visited: 26 June 2020. https://www.veteranstodaynetwork.com/2020/05/21/confirmed-trump-ordered-syrias-wheat-crop-burned-during-pandemic/
 “U.S. aircraft sets fire to wheat crops in NE Syria,” Xinhuanet, 17 May 2020. Last visited: 26 June 2020. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-05/17/c_139064494.htm.