They fought with fists, stones, and nail-studded bamboo poles, in a bloody brawl that left around two dozen people dead.
More details are emerging about a violent clash late Monday night along a disputed border between India and China high in the Himalayas, which has ratcheted up tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbors and left officials on both sides scrambling to deescalate.
CNN has obtained satellite images taken June 16 by Planet Labs, Inc. that show two groups of buildings and trucks in the Galwan Valley-area where the violence occurred.
It’s unclear who the buildings and trucks belong to. CNN has shown them to regional and military experts that have not been able to verify which country is responsible for them.
However, their proximity to the Line of Actual Control highlights just how volatile the situation is.
A source in the Indian military told CNN that the dispute started over a Chinese tent that was constructed on Sunday night. Indian troops, according to the source, tore it down.
On Monday, Chinese troops armed with stones and bamboo sticks with nails returned, the source said, and attacked unprepared Indian troops.
CNN is unable to independently confirm this account of events and China has to yet to give their official account of Monday’s events.
At least 20 Indian soldiers died in the skirmish. China also suffered casualties in the confrontation, the Indian army said, though neither side has released any figures.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has responded to the violent face-off, saying that India does not “instigate” and will not compromise on “integrity and sovereignty.”
“India wants peace, but if instigated, India at all costs is capable of giving an appropriate response,” Modi warned in a strongly worded statement, which still left the door open for deescalation.
In a phone call on Wednesday with his Indian counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged India to “strictly control its frontline troops and immediately stop all provocative actions,” according to a statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“The Indian side must not misjudge the current situation and must not underestimate China’s firm will to safeguard territorial sovereignty,” Wang was quoted as saying.
The statement added that China and India had agreed to “cool down” the situation at the border.
During the call, India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said that China’s actions were “pre-meditated and planned,” according to an Indian government statement.
Jaishankar said the clash would have a serious impact on the two countries’ bilateral relationship, the statement added.