Iranian militias in Deir ez-Zor under increasing pressure

DEIR EZ-ZOR, Syria — Iranian militias west of the Euphrates River in Deir ez-Zor, Syria continue to have their hands full with the Islamic State (ISIS) cells sheltering in the Badia — Syria’s eastern desert — and increasing tensions with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the other side of the river.

On Friday, a group of ISIS fighters conducted the first attack on Iranian positions in Deir ez-Zor using an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) in nearly a year. ISIS published a video of the attack via one of its media outlets.

In addition to the continued ISIS attacks in the region, tensions between the Iranian militias and the SDF have steadily increased following the U.S. announcement that it has no immediate plans to leave the region.

The SDF suspects that the Syrian regime and allied Iranian militias are behind a campaign of assassinations targeting local security personnel and tribal leaders cooperating with the SDF and its civil partners, the Syrian Democratic Council and the Democratic Autonomous Administration.

In early August, people in Deir ez-Zor took to the streets to protest the attacks against tribal leaders, calling on the SDF to intensify their investigations and bring the perpetrators to justice.

During the demonstration, clashes broke out between local security forces and armed men in the crowd.

Several media outlets and human rights organizations erroneous reported that the SDF forces opened fire on the unarmed, peaceful protesters.

However, Mahmoud Awwad al-Huwaidi from the Al-Akkidat tribe was among those who participated in the demonstration in the village of Diban, described a very situation. Al-Huwaidi told Hawar News that around 25 armed men entered the demonstrations after they had already begun and began opening fire.

Al-Huwaidi indicated that the group of armed men were not from the region and that during the skirmishes, the Deir ez-Zor Military Council managed to kill several and chased the remaining men across the Euphrates.

Other SDF forces have since been relocated along the eastern banks of the river to improve security.

On Friday, members of the SDF targeted regime and militia positions from across the Euphrates with medium and small arms. No casualties were reported.

Previous clashes centered around ferries that are often used for the smuggling of goods and people across the river.