Turkey portrays the ongoing anti-Islamic State (ISIS) operation led by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor (Dêrezor) as a conflict between Kurds and Arabs, using this pretext to launch simultaneous attacks against the Kurdish forces, the Tel Tamir Military Council announced on Sunday.
SDF launched Operation Security Reinforcement on 27 August to target ISIS members and drug traffickers operating in rural areas of Deir Ez-Zor. According to the council, Turkish forces have been carrying out daily attacks on Kurdish-held areas, particularly the Manbij (Minbic) countryside, while the SDF implements the anti-ISIS operation.
Over the past two days, Turkish forces and Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) have intensified shelling and attacks on villages along lines of contact in Manbij, Ain Issa and Tel Tamir. They have targeted Syrian government forces and SDF military positions.
In response to two separate attacks by Turkish-backed factions in rural areas of Hasakah (Hesekê) canton’s Tel Tamir (Til Temir), 12 Turkish-backed mercenaries were killed on Sunday morning, the SDF-affiliated military council said in Sunday’s statement.
On Monday, the Tel Abyad Military Council also announced that it had repelled an attack by the SNA in the town of Ain Issa in Raqqa, killing five militants. Turkish forces had sent military reinforcements to Ain Issa on Saturday amid intense shelling and affiliated groups’ attempts to advance in Manbij, Ain Issa and Tel Tamir.
During the SDF operation, the SDF Military Council dismissed the commander of the Deir Ez-Zor Military Council, Ahmed Al-Khubail, known as Abu Khawla, citing “involvement in various crimes and violations”, including drug trafficking.
Following the dismissal, Abu Hewla’s supporters within the Deir Ez-Zor Military Council began mobilising an attack on SDF forces in the region, according to a statement by the SDF press centre.
According to ANHA, three hours after the start of the Deir Ez-Zor SDF operation, Turkish forces began launching attacks on other parts of northeast Syria, shelling 28 villages and killing four children and a woman from the same family.
Meanwhile, American journalist Lindsey Snell posted a video on her social media account on Sunday reporting that al-Qaeda affiliate Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) had entered the Turkish-held northwestern city of Azaz and would move to Manbij to fight the SDF. “HTS’s partner, NATO member Turkey, is orchestrating this,” she wrote.
Syrian government forces and Iranian-backed armed groups have also been accused of infiltrating conflict zones and attempting to incite sectarian strife in SDF-held areas in order to fuel clashes.