At least 50 people have been killed in battles fought between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Deir Ezzor Military Council (DEMC) in eastern Syria. The warring parties are backed by the US.
Last week, the head of the DEMC, Abu Khawla, was arrested during a meeting with the SDF. The SDF alleged that Khawla was engaged in criminal activity, including drug trafficking and having communications with the Syrian government.
On Wednesday, the SDF and DEMC announced an agreement where Khawla would step down as head of the council. The deal was intended to bring an end to the fighting. On Thursday, the US called for fighting between its Syrian allies to cease.
However, the battles continued throughout the weekend, and the death toll is now over 50. Some of the fighting occurred at the al-Omar oil field, where US forces maintain a military base.
Prior to the fighting, the DEMC fell under the umbrella of the Kurdish-led SDF. Washington utilizes the SDF to govern the eastern third of Syria, occupied by about 900 American soldiers. The fighting highlights the ethnic tensions within the US-backed militias Washington controls in Syria.
The DEMC has rallied local Arab tribal Fighters to bolster its ranks. A Syrian journalist reported, “categorically refuse to be ruled by the [Kurdish groups].” Khawla has called for a general mobilization.
The SDF has brought in at least 400 reinforcements from other regions of Syria. “The [SDF} accuses the Syria government of increasing tensions. Yesterday evening, supplies were sent from security agencies affiliated with the Syrian regime in an attempt to cause civil strife that serves their agendas of pressure and threatening the notables of the region,” the SDF statement said.