The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Friday declared the successful conclusion of Operation Security Reinforcement in Deir ez-Zor (Dêrezor), a region in eastern Syria marred by recent unrest caused by rebellious Arab tribal clans.
Launched on 27 August, the operation initially achieved its objectives, leading to the apprehension of multiple Islamic State (ISIS) militants and narcotics traffickers and the sweeping of over 90 villages in the western and northern countryside of the region.
However, according to the SDF’s statement, the Syrian government attempted to redirect events by introducing armed elements into Deir ez-Zor villages from the western bank of the Euphrates, forming a group called the ‘Tribal Army’, directly linked to the regime’s security apparatus.
Violence erupted in the region following the SDF’s arrest of General Commander Ahmed Al-Khubail, also known as Abu Khawla, of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council on corruption charges during the operation. Khawla’s removal from his position and subsequent detention triggered a mobilisation of his Arab supporters within the Deir ez-Zor Military Council, leading to confrontations with SDF forces in the area. These clashes subsequently escalated and spread to various towns and villages in the province.
While the conflict has often been portrayed as an ethnic clash between Kurds and Arabs, allegations have surfaced suggesting that Turkey, the Syrian government, and Iran may have played a role in exacerbating sectarian tensions in SDF-controlled areas to advance their respective strategic interests.
In addition to the successful clearance of villages from the intruding armed groups, the SDF reported thwarting attacks by Turkish-backed mercenaries in several other areas.
The operation did come at a cost, with nine civilians losing their lives due to heavy weaponry attacks and 25 SDF fighters during clashes. However, the SDF stated that they neutralised 23 armed members, apprehended four Syrian regime-backed National Defense Forces (NDF) members, two ISIS members, and 15 “intruded armed elements”, and confiscated significant quantities of weapons, ammunition, and explosives.
The SDF expressed gratitude to the Deir ez-Zor community for their steadfast support and reaffirmed their commitment to intensify efforts against criminal elements and ISIS cells in the region, pledging to act decisively against those who collaborated with hostile entities.