US urges end to deadly clashes in east Syria

Published September 2, 2023
People protest in the Syria’s southern city of Sweida on September 1. — AFP
People protest in the Syria’s southern city of Sweida on September 1. — AFP

BEIRUT: The United States called on Friday for an end to deadly fighting between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Arab armed groups in a region of eastern Syria.

The arrest on Sunday of the head of the Deir Ezzor Military Council, a local Arab armed group affiliated with the US-backed SDF, has triggered clashes which have since left dozens dead.

The US embassy for Syria, which is based outside the country, called on “all parties to de-escalate and peacefully resolve the situation”.

“The violence in northeast Syria must cease,” said the US military’s Operation Inherent Resolve.

In a statement, it urged a renewed focus on efforts to bring “peace and stability in northeast Syria, free from the threat of Daesh”.

“We remain focused on working with the Syrian Democratic Forces to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh, in support of regional security and stability. Distractions from this critical work create instability and increase the risk of Daesh resurgence.”

The SDF spearheaded the offensive that defeated the IS group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria in 2019.

The US-backed force controls a semi-autonomous Kurdish zone in Syria’s northeast, including large parts of the Deir Ezzor province.

The recent fighting has taken place near the Conoco gas field. The US-led coalition maintains bases there as well as in Syria’s largest gas field, Al-Omar.

Death toll rises to 45

The Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday that overnight fighting had claimed the lives of five supporters of the arrested head of the Deir Ezzor Military Council, Ahmad al-Khabil.

Their deaths bring to 45 the toll since the clashes broke out Sunday, including five civilians and 17 SDF members, the UK-based group told AFP.

The reasons for the arrest of Khabil, also known as Abu Khawla, were not specified. But the observatory and a local activist said he was known to run highly lucrative smuggling activities.

The Kurds administer the area through local civilian and military councils in an effort to stave off Arab discontent.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2023

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