On Monday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) entered the town of Diban in Deir ez-Zor (Dêrezor), a region in eastern Syria marred by recent unrest caused by rebellious Arab tribal clans. Once the operation in Diban is completed, the situation in the region will be largely under control for the SDF.
The SDF announced on Tuesday that they had successfully cleared the village of Al-Hawayij, adjacent to Diban, and were now advancing towards the village’s main road. Four members of the pro-government National Defence Forces (NDF) militia were also captured during the clashes.
Update: The village of Al-Hawayij, adjacent to the Dhiban town in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, has been successfully cleared by our forces. Now our forces are advancing towards the main street in the village. Four Syria regime NDF members were captured during the… pic.twitter.com/zWuBWJaAGR
— Farhad Shami (@farhad_shami) September 5, 2023
SDF Commander-in-Chief Mazloum Abdi issued a statement on social media after the Kurdish forces entered Diban, saying that the SDF would continue to stabilise the region and ensure the safety of citizens through Operation Security Reinforcement.
Our forces conitue stabilizing the region and providing security for citizens through Security Reinforcement .
Security is regained, civic peace is preserved and situation is stabilized thanks to SDF, local community and the tribal awareness.
— Mazloum Abdî مظلوم عبدي (@MazloumAbdi) September 4, 2023
“Security is regained, civic peace is preserved and situation is stabilized thanks to SDF, local community and the tribal awareness,” said Abdi. The commander also raised concerns over ongoing offensives by the Turkish forces and its mercenaries in Tel Tamir and Manbij.
The SDF further announced that 11 of its fighters lost their lives in clashes during the Operation Security Reinforcement in the Deir Ez-Zor countryside against the Islamic State (ISIS) members and drug traffickers that began on 27 August.
The SDF touted their achievements in the ten days since launching the operation, asserting that they have effectively “dismantled the foundation of terrorism”. They also asserted to have thwarted attempts to sow discord and destabilise a region that had enjoyed relative peace since its liberation from ISIS in March 2019.
On Sunday, the all-female militia Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) had announced that it was joining the operation and was preparing to cross into Diban, which marks the final stronghold of elements fighting against the Kurdish-led forces.
— Farhad Shami (@farhad_shami) September 4, 2023
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the death toll since the onset of clashes has reached 71, with at least 99 individuals wounded.
Deir ez-Zor conflict
Tensions in Deir ez-Zor escalated last week when the SDF Military Council dismissed the commander of the Deir Ez-Zor Military Council, Ahmed Al-Khubail, known as Abu Khawla, citing his involvement in various crimes, including drug trafficking. This dismissal triggered mobilisation by Abu Khawla’s supporters within the Deir Ez-Zor Military Council, who threatened to confront SDF forces in the region.
Despite the conflict being largely portrayed as an ethnic clash between Kurds and Arabs, accusations have emerged implicating Turkey, the Syrian government, and Iran in inciting sectarian strife within SDF-held areas to fuel clashes for their own strategic interests.
In response, the SDF issued a statement on Saturday denouncing external interference in the Deir ez-Zor region, accusing certain actors of exploiting the ongoing Operation Security Reinforcement to advance their own agendas. The SDF emphasised their history of peaceful coexistence between Arab and Kurdish communities and rejected attempts to frame the situation as an inter-ethnic dispute.
In a show of solidarity, Arab tribal sheikhs and leaders from various parts of northeastern Syria reaffirmed their commitment to standing by the SDF, underscoring the importance of unity in restoring and preserving peace in the region.