DEIR EZ-ZOR, Syria — The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control the area in Arab majority area Deir ez-Zor and its countryside. The SDF and the International Coalition against ISIS brought down the ISIS caliphate there in 2019, and since the the downfall of the caliphate, ISIS has re-emerged with sleeper cells and smaller-scale but targeted attacks in the area.
Recent months witnessed 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 (DAA).
Earlier this month a prominent Arab leader, sheikh Mutashar al-Hafil of the Al-Akkidat clan, and a sheikh who accompanied him were killed. The Al-Akkidat clan is part of the largest tribal confederation ‘Egaidat’ in the province and clan-members protested and raised the assassination with the DAA and SDF. In latest assassinations attempts, the Co-Chair of the Agriculture Committee in Deir ez-Zor Mohammed Abdel Aziz escaped an assassination attempt on his life after his car was targeted on Abu Khashab road in the eastern countryside of the city. He was only slightly injured. The attackers are unknown.
In earlier public statements released by the DAA it declared that the aim of the campaign seems to be to divide the peoples of North and East Syria and sow distrust between ethnic and tribal groups. The DAA accuses opponents of its democratic system for the region. Instability in Deir ez-Zor would create changes for opponents like the Syrian Regime and ISIS to recruit Arab tribal leaders and turn Arab fighters of the SDF.
Although the DAA has not officially named who it believed was behind the attacks, its military arm SDF seems to suspects that the Syrian regime and allied Iranian militias are behind the campaign. Tensions between the SDF and Iranian militias based in the area have also increased.
As the assassinations are in areas under control of the SDF, the assassination on security officials and especially on he Arab tribal leaders may further negatively affect the relationship between the SDF and the Arab tribes and increase the instability in the area. After several requests by Arab tribal leaders and as a gesture of goodwill the SDF has released on several occasions detainees belonging to the tribes.
Against this backdrop, the spokesperson for the International Coalition against ISIS, Colonel Myles B. Caggins III, stated that they are working with their partners to ensure that the perpetrators of the heinous terrorist acts in the region will be held accountable.
“Representatives of the U.S. State Department and the International Coalition against ISIS met this week with leaders from civil society, governing bodies, security forces and tribal elders, to understand what is going on the ground. We are working with our partners to ensure that the perpetrators of these heinous acts of terrorism are held accountable.”
He added that long-term stability and safety in these areas requires trust between security forces and the local community, and significant support from the International coalition.
In an interview with Al-Arabiya.net Caggins commented that;
“The extremist organization is waiting for the right opportunity to launch terrorist strikes, especially when it sees any differences between local allied groups. The local people in Deir Ezzor and all of northeastern Syria have worked together to fight the organization, so we are following and interested in what is happening in that area and we do not want ISIS members to return to it.”
In related news, in Ayn Issa, protesters condemned the ongoing attacks of the Turkish occupation on their area calling on the international community and the Russian guarantor to put an end to these violations. The area and the countryside of Ayn Isa are subjected to indiscriminate and almost daily shelling by the Turkish occupation forces and the terrorist factions it backs. The violations are in full view of Regime forces and partner Russia which is a guarantor to the ceasefire between the warring parties in North and East Syria.
In Raqqa, city, residents held a protest in rejection of Syrian Regime intervention in areas of northern and eastern Syria. Protesters claimed the aims are to create instability and to put division among components.