22 Dead in Syrian Clashes, Deir ez-Zor

22 Dead in Syrian Clashes, Deir ez-Zor


22 people have lost their lives following clashes between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Arab-led Deir ez-Zor Military Council (DMC) in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor.

The clash reportedly began after tribesmen affiliated with the DMC opened fire at SDF forces in an area along “known smuggling routes,” according to an SDF source who requested to not be named.

The clashes come after the arrest of Ahmad Al Khabil, who is also known as Abu Khawla and is the leader of the DMC. It is not clear why Al Khabil was arrested; however, the SDF released a statement on Monday in which they claimed to have launched “an operation to bolster security” against criminals “involved in drug trafficking and benefiting from arms smuggling.

Ahmad Al Khabil, also known as Abu Khawla and leader of the DMC (Photo – ANHA)

16 “local fighters” were killed during the clashes, while three members of the SDF as well as three civilians, two children and a woman, were also killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based human rights organization that was founded in 2006.

The Groups in Question:

The SDF was originally formed in 2015 and was built upon alliances negotiated by the Kurdish-led People’s Defense Units (YPG) and the Women’s Defense Units (YPJ) with primarily Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian forces. The SDF’s primary opponents are various Arab and Islamic nationalists, which include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Syrian National Army, and the Turkish Armed Forces.

The SDF utilizes various local militias consisting of both civilian and military forces to minimize any Arab discontent that may come with Kurdish occupation. These forces enforce various peacekeeping measures in their designated regions.

Kurdish Forces (Photo – AFP)

The DMC is one of several other groups affiliated with the SDF; they are responsible for maintaining security in Arab-majority areas of the Deir ez-Zor province and fought alongside other SDF forces to remove the Islamic State from north-eastern Syria in 2016.

Both the SDF and the DMC enjoy military and financial support from the US.

“What’s happening today is a settling of scores,” Omar Abu Layla, who leads the DeirEzzor24 media platform, told AFP. “Corrupt commanders felt they were in danger after Abu Khawla was arrested and have tried to turn it into a tribal and Arab issue in order to protect themselves.”


Clashes are expected to continue until either the SDF releases Al Khabil or manages to suppress DMC forces and restore order to the province.

The Syrian civil war has killed over half a million people since it broke out in 2011, which has seen both major world powers intercede as well as the rise and fall of Islamic Jihadist groups.

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