Kurdish-led forces end military operations in east Syria

AFP , Wednesday 6 Sep 2023

US-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria declared the "end of military operations" in the country's east Wednesday after days of clashes with Arab fighters left dozens dead.

Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces
Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gesture as they move from Deir Ezzor to the Dhiban front line in eastern Syria on September 4, 2023. AFP


The violence started when the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on August 27 detained the Arab chief Ahmad al-Khabil, who headed the affiliated Deir Ezzor Military Council.

SDF spokesman Farhad Shami told AFP on Wednesday that "military operations in Dhiban have ended", although SDF forces were still searching districts of the town for remaining enemy fighters.

"Neighbourhoods are being searched for armed groups coming from the western bank of the Euphrates," Shami added.

The clashes had rocked Kurdish-controlled areas of Deir Ezzor province, killing mostly fighters but also nine civilians, said the war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Control of the province is split between the SDF to the east of the Euphrates river and Syrian government forces and their proxies to the west.

The violence had pitted the SDF against loyalists of Khabil, who is also known as Abu Khawla, and local Arab fighters.

But the tribes are divided in their loyalties, added the Britain-based Observatory, which has a vast network of sources inside Syria.

Arab-majority Deir Ezzor, a resource-rich region which borders Iraq, is bisected by the Euphrates and is home to dozens of tribal communities.

Some of their fighters joined the SDF in its battle to uproot the Islamic State group that ended the jihadists' self-declared caliphate in Syria.

In northern Syria on Monday, Turkey-backed fighters who said they were from Arab tribes attacked SDF positions in support of local fighters in Deir Ezzor.

The SDF has denied any dispute with Arab tribes in the region, saying the clashes have mostly involved "elements of the regime and some beneficiaries" of Khabil, whom they accuse of drug trafficking, mismanagement and communicating with Damascus.

The US embassy in Syria, which is based outside the country, had Sunday said that senior US officials had met with Kurdish-led forces and community leaders in eastern Syria to discuss the need for de-escalation.

Kurdish authorities control areas in north and northeast Syria through local civilian and military councils in an effort to stave off Arab discontent.

Syria's civil war broke out in 2011 with the government's repression of peaceful protests. The conflict has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions.

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