Syrian Democratic Forces Launch Offensive in Deir ez-Zor, Targeting Tribal Leader Amid Escalating Tensions
In a significant escalation of tensions in the already complex Syrian conflict, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have launched an offensive aimed at gaining control of the Arab town of Dhiban. Their primary objective is to apprehend Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel, a tribal leader known for his role in mobilizing forces against the SDF. This operation follows the SDF's recent territorial gains in Deir ez-Zor, including the capture of strongholds formerly held by Abu Khawla, the dismissed head of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council, who was apprehended by the SDF just last week.
The offensive in Dhiban comes against a backdrop of intricate geopolitical dynamics. The SDF has engaged in a positive dialogue with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Ethan Goldrich, and Coalition Commander Major General Joel B. Vowell. These talks also involved consultations with tribal leaders to address the evolving situation in Deir ez-Zor. Additionally, the U.S. and SDF have collaborated with Sheikh Hashem al-Bashir from the Baggara tribe to devise strategies aimed at countering Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel's efforts to mobilize rebel forces.
On the ground, the SDF has successfully completed sweeping operations in the town of al-Busira and a significant portion of Al-Shuhail, demonstrating their firm resolve to bring the operation in the town of Al-Dhiban to a successful conclusion. Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel has been explicitly labeled as a wanted individual by the SDF, with allegations including inciting violence among fighters and civilians, displacing the local population, sabotaging civil institutions, and attempting to ignite unrest at the behest of external actors. Furthermore, the SDF has accused Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel of receiving support from the Syrian government.
Tensions have been escalating since August 27, leading to intense clashes between the SDF and Arab tribes in Deir ez-Zor. This conflict was initiated by the arrest and dismissal of Abu Khawla, the former head of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council, and has unfolded with significant consequences.
While the SDF anticipates concluding the battle for Deir ez-Zor in the coming week, the resilience of Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel and his ability to withstand the SDF's offensive remain uncertain. These recent developments underscore the intricacies of the ongoing conflict in Syria and its broader regional implications.
By Kobin Ferhad