At Least 25 Dead in Heavy Clashes Between Us Proxy Militia, Arab Tribes in Eastern Syria

Orinoco Tribune, September 2, 2023 —

Tribesmen from Deir Ezzor have been fighting SDF troops for four days straight following the kidnapping of a prominent Arab leader.

Clashes between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Arab tribesmen in Deir Ezzor governorate left at least 25 dead and more than a dozen wounded as of 30 August, raising tensions between the Kurdish proxy militia and Syrian locals to the highest point in years.

The fighting was reportedly sparked by the detention of Ahmed Khbeil, better known as Abu Khawla, in Hasakah governorate. Khawla leads the SDF-affiliated Deir Ezzor Military Council (DEMC).

SDF forces took him on Sunday after being invited to a meeting in Hasakah.

Local tribes issued a statement following Khawla’s detention for Arab fighters within the SDF to defect and join the fight against the US occupation of northeast Syria.

Hours after arresting Khawla, the SDF issued a statement announcing the launch of “Operation Security Reinforcement” in Deir Ezzor, claiming the kidnapping campaign came in response to local calls urging for “more action” against ISIS.

Concurrent with the clashes between the SDF and the DEMC, two vehicles of the National Defense Forces (NDF) – a part-time volunteer reserve component of the Syrian army – were targeted by the US-backed Kurdish group.

The DEMC played a vital role in the SDF military operations against ISIS in Syria, only launched after the Russian army arrived to support Damascus in the fight against the extremist group.

Despite being defeated in 2019, ISIS has recently seen a resurgence in Syria at the same time as the US has significantly reinforced its presence in the war-torn country.

Arabic media reports have pointed out that ISIS fighters in northeast Syria have mainly been operating from US and SDF-controlled territory in the oil-rich region.

Over the past few years, Arab tribes from Syria’s oil-rich northeast have denounced the country’s foreign occupation and expressed their support for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Tribesmen have also accused the US and its proxies of trying to disperse their loyalties, provoke internal fighting, and weaken their ranks in order to keep them away from the popular resistance.

Anger against the SDF spiked in local tribes following a massive arrest and compulsory recruitment campaign earlier this year. According to a UN report, 1,696 minors were recruited by armed groups in Syria in 2022, including 637 by the SDF.

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