SDF Escalates Violence Against Civilians in Northeastern Syria

Credit: (MEO)

Recent reports detail a concerning surge in attacks perpetrated by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against civilians in regions bordering the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria. Over the past few weeks, SDF snipers have been implicated in the deaths of at least seven civilians and injuries sustained by another five, primarily occurring in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.

The most recent casualties occurred due to attacks by SDF, yesterday, Saturday 24 February, a laborer with the Agricultural Association in Al-Ashara, identified as Awad Al-Awja, was killed, while three individuals—Salem Al-Zaki, Nasr Al-Askar, and his wife—were wounded by gunshots originating from SDF positions across the Euphrates River in Daranj.

Additionally, Ali Khalif Al-Makhlif Al-Mardoud, a resident of Al-Bukamal, died after being shot by SDF bullets near the water station in Al-Baghouz while fishing in the river. Two children, 12-year-old Muhammad Khalil Al-Saleh and Ahmed Fayez Al-Aliwi, aged 13, sustained injuries during the evening hours in Al-Mayadeen, having been hit by gunfire coming from an SDF sniper post situated in Al-Hawaij.

This escalation can be traced back to a decision by the SDF leadership to bolster defenses along the Euphrates shoreline, particularly in response to intensified clashes with Assad regime forces and attacks from territories under regime control.

The SDF has also increased patrols and reinforced outposts amidst an increasing number of attacks by Arab tribal forces which began last summer after the arrest of Ahmed Al-Khubail, the head of the Deir Ezzor Military Council, in late August 2023, leading to widespread fear and dissatisfaction among locals and a full-scale uprising.

Tensions have risen significantly between the SDF and Arab tribal forces, whose activities have expanded beyond the borders of the Euphrates Valley. Despite initial successes in driving the SDF from large swaths of land, tribal fighters have faced setbacks due to the deployment of substantial reinforcements and crackdowns by the SDF.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) 2023 annual report the SDF was responsible for over 7% of all civilians killed by military groups in Syria last year. Those killed by the SDF numbered 74 civilians, which included eight boys, one girl, and 10 women.

These developments underscore the complex dynamics at play in northeastern Syria, where the SDF faces challenges both externally and internally. While the SDF remains engaged in ongoing conflicts against remnant elements of the Islamic State, the group must contend with growing pressure from regional powers and domestic opponents alike.


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