Wednesday saw the successful completion of operations by Syrian Kurdish forces in the town of Diban in Deir ez-Zor (Dêrezor), eastern Syria, restoring control over all areas in which recent clashes have taken place. The announcement was made by Farhad Shami, the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) media centre.
“The city is now free from the presence of armed groups that had entered and then retreated to regime controlled areas from where they originally came,” Shami said.
The SDF entered the town of Diban on Monday. It was the last stronghold of elements opposed to the Kurdish-led forces.
Clashes in the area erupted after the SDF, as part of a security operation targeting ISIS cells and drug traffickers in the region, arrested Deir ez-Zor Military Council General Commander Ahmed Al-Khubail (also known as Abu Khawla) in connection with corruption. Khawla’s dismissal and subsequent arrest led to the mobilisation of his Arab supporters within the Deir Ez-Zor Military Council, resulting in confrontations with SDF forces in the area. These clashes subsequently spread to several towns and villages in the province.
Although the conflict has often been framed as an ethnic clash between Kurds and Arabs, allegations have risen that Turkey, the Syrian government and Iran played a role in fuelling sectarian tensions in SDF-held areas to further their own strategic interests.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Syrian government forces and Iranian-backed armed groups had infiltrated conflict zones in the region with the aim of exacerbating clashes. Shami also shared videos purporting to show these armed groups crossing from government-controlled areas into the conflict zones.