The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have accused armed groups affiliated with some of the regime’s security agencies, as well as ISIS cells, of seeking to foment strife in Deir ez-Zor.
The Syrian Democratic Forces have imposed a curfew from Saturday morning for 48 hours in areas under their control in Deir ez-Zor province, where at least 54 people have been killed this week in clashes between their units, dominated by Kurds, and fighters belonging to Arab tribes.
The situation in Deir ez-Zor escalated after the Syrian Democratic Forces arrested the leader of the “Deir ez-Zor Military Council,” Ahmed al-Khabil, known as Abu Khula, in the city of Hasakah on Sunday.
The arrest of this leader led to tension that escalated into armed clashes, resulting in at least 54 deaths, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, according to a new toll released on Friday.
The Observatory explained that the majority of these casualties are supporters of Abu Khula, but this toll also includes six civilian casualties.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the United States, consist of Kurdish and Arab factions, with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) at the forefront. These forces are stationed on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, which divides Deir ez-Zor province.
The Kurds do not directly administer areas under their control in Deir ez-Zor, especially those where Arabs make up the majority of the population, but rather through local civilian and military councils, in an attempt to mitigate Arab-Kurdish sensitivities.
The Deir ez-Zor Military Council, which is affiliated with the Kurdish self-administration, includes local fighters responsible for the security of the areas that came under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces after the defeat of the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor.
On Friday night, the Kurdish forces issued a statement saying, “The Military Council of Deir ez-Zor and the Internal Security Forces announce a curfew in the Deir ez-Zor region, starting from 5 am tomorrow, the second of September, for 48 hours.”
The statement accused “armed groups affiliated with some of the regime’s security agencies, as well as ISIS cells” of seeking “to sow discord in the region and attempting to involve civilians in their dirty schemes.” According to the statement, the curfew aims to “protect the lives and property of civilians from the sabotage of mercenary armed groups and prevent them from hiding among civilian movements.”
This move came after the United States called for an end to the fighting in areas near the Koniko gas field in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, where a base of the international coalition led by Washington is located.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus said in a post on the “X” platform on Friday that the United States “is deeply concerned about the recent acts of violence” in Deir ez-Zor and calls on all parties to stop the escalation.
It added, “We reiterate our commitment to alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people, ensuring the final defeat of ISIS through cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces.”
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Thursday that it “continues to closely monitor events in northeastern Syria and confirms its cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces to ensure the permanent defeat of ISIS.”
Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that Arab fighters supported by Iran, an ally of the Syrian regime, took advantage of the current clashes to launch from regime-controlled areas and seize two villages that were under Kurdish control.
The Syrian conflict, which began in 2011, has caused the deaths of more than half a million people, inflicted massive damage to infrastructure, and led to the displacement of over half of the population inside and outside the country.