71 months of International Coalition operations in Syria | Broad popular resentment over assassinations of tribal dignitaries … Demands to expel regime forces… Ongoing support and military coordination with SDF
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
August 23, 2020
Between July 23 and August 23, SDF-controlled areas in Deir Ezzor experienced growing popular resentment and anger, as demonstrations took place in Al-Shuhayl and Theban towns and Al-Hawayij village in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, calling for disclosure of the identities of the killers of Sheikh Matshar Hammoud Al-Hafal, the uncle of head of Al-Ekaydat tribe. Sheikh Matshar was assassinated in an armed attack on a vehicle carrying dignitaries of Al-Ekaydat tribe on the outskirts of Al-Hawayij village in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.
According to SOHR sources, Al-Hawayij village witnessed exchange of fire between gunmen among the demonstrators and SDF fighters, which left several people injured on both sides.
Before Al-Hafal’s assassination, the International Coalition and Syria Democratic Forces met on August 8 with tribal elders and dignitaries in Hajin town in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. The meeting centred on the deteriorating political and security situations in the region and strategies to reach appropriate solutions. In addition, the tribal elders and dignitaries demanded that International Coalition provide intelligence support to SDF, so that they could eliminate ISIS cells in the area.
Syrian Observatory sources reported on August 11 that “Zubayd tribes meeting”, organized by “Sheikh Mus’aab Khalil Al-Hafal” the head of “Al-Ekaydat” tribe, was held in Theban town in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. The meeting discussed the general situation in Deir Ezzor and the deteriorating security in the region. The meeting was concluded by a statement by Al-Ekaydat tribe in which the tribe accused Syria Democratic Forces of “failure to manage the military, civilian and economic affairs in the region”. The statement, of which the Syrian Observatory received a copy, focused on the following points:
“1- The International Coalition bears responsibility for the security chaos and instability in Deir Ezzor, since it is in charge of the de facto authority.
2- An independent and professional investigation commission to be formed in order to investigate the murder of “Sheikh Matshar Al-Hafal”.
3- The administration of Deir Ezzor province to be turned to the province’s people, with no guardianship by anybody else.
4- All innocent detainees should be released, and women and children should be allowed to leave refugee camps.
5- Calls upon the International Coalition and all active actors to accelerate the political process in Syria to reach a solution soon.
6- One month to be given for the implementation of these demands, starting from the date of this statement.”
On August 13, “Al-Bakir” clan of “Al-Ekaydat” tribe invited tribal elders of their tribe to a meeting to discuss the recent developments in Deir Ezzor. Al-Ekaydat tribe’s elders called on the International Coalition to force Russian, Iranian and regime forces out of the villages under the tribe’s control in the Deir Ezzor countryside such as (Hatla, Khasham, Husseiniya and Al-Salehiyya). The tribe’s elders confirmed their rejection of strife, which many parties tried to spread to create conflict among the people of the region, and to confront the forces that protect the area, as Al-Ekaydat tribe’s elders said.
While on August 17, two regime soldiers were killed in airstrike by the International Coalition on regime checkpoint near Al-Qamishli in north-eastern Syria. On August 18, skirmishes erupted between regime forces and the International Coalition forces, as regime forces and loyalists opened fire indiscriminately on posts of SDF and International Coalition on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, south of Koniko oil field in Deir Ezzor countryside. No casualties were reported.
Furthermore, on August 14, Syrian Observatory sources reported an exchange of fire between SDF members stationed on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, west of Al-Tayyanah town in the east of Deir Ezzor, and regime forces on the opposite bank. No casualties were reported.
Ongoing coordination and support
Although ISIS was announced defeated in March 2019, yet the group only lost ground in northeastern Syria. The group’s presence, its sympathizers and cells are far from being defeated. The group’s sleeper cells are still operating in various areas held by SDF, carrying out assassinations and bombings as part of the security chaos in those areas.
As International Coalition forces have been supporting Syria Democratic Forces, SOHR activists monitored on August 13 an International Coalition column comprising 40 trucks carrying military and logistical supplies, heading to Al-Hasakah. While on August 5, an International Coalition convoy of 30 armoured vehicles and trucks carrying logistical supplies and cement blocks were seen heading to military bases in Al-Hasakah countryside.
Abductees forgotten by Coalition and SDF
17 months have passed since the International Coalition’s official declaration of the elimination of Islamic State as a dominating force over east of the Euphrates River. Despite all the developments that took place over the past month, the Coalition and SDF’s silence continues regarding ISIS abductees. No details on the fate of thousands of abductees are provided; and no information about the results of the interrogations of ISIS member is available, as thousands are held by SDF and the Coalition, east of the Euphrates.
Concerns about the abductees’ lives and fate are growing, including the fate of father Paulo Dall’Oglio, Bishop John Ibrahim, Paul Yaziji, Abdullah al-Khalil, a British journalist, Sky News journalist, and other journalists, and hundreds of abductees from Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) and Afrin and other people from Deir Ezzor.
August 2020… another month passes and no investigation into alleged Coalition massacres
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renew its appeals to all international actors, International Coalition and SDF to announce the results of interrogations with ISIS detainees and what happened to the thousands of abductees. The Syrian Observatory had previously called upon the international community to investigate reports regarding the killing of 200 ISIS operatives and their families, women and children, in a massacre committed by the Coalition’s jets by bombing al-Baghouz camp on March 21, 2019.
According to SOHR sources, 200 bodies were buried at dawn on that particular day, without information as to whether the International Coalition was aware of the presence of children and women from ISIS families inside the camp or not.
However, all these appeals remain unanswered. Therefore, SOHR renews its appeals to all relevant parties to announce the whole facts and hold accountable those responsible for the massacres and violations over the past five years during which the Coalition were actively involved in the Syrian crisis.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while providing adequate monitoring of Coalition operations in Syria, stresses once more that it would have been possible to avoid the heavy losses of Syrian civilian lives if the International Coalition had not ignored SOHR’s calls to spare and protect civilians from its military operations, where the presence of Islamic State militants or other jihadist groups in a civilian area does not in any way justify the blank and discriminate bombardment of area and the loss of civilian lives.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also stresses that the negative impact of Turkish military intervention on civilians could have been avoided, if the US President had applied enough pressure on his Turkish counterpart to stop a new humanitarian crisis, displacing thousands and killing and injuring hundreds.
On the other hand, we at SOHR would like to remind the world that the oil and gas resources, controlled by the International Coalition, belong only to the Syrian people. Therefore, all the concerned parties are obliged under international laws and norms to preserve these resources and ensure that they will not be stolen or seized in any way; these resources do not belong to the “regime”, “Iran” or any other party; they belong only to the people of Syria, who have been suffering the brutalities of an ongoing war for over nine years. SOHR also warns of repercussions of exploiting these sources, seizing them or depriving the Syrians of their rights in resources.