Head of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units Siban Hamo condemned the Syrian regime or Russian shelling of a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) position east of the Euphrates River, questioning how they can target forces that have been combating the ISIS terrorist group.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the shelling is a “declaration of war.”
The shelling had taken place only hours after an agreement was reached to establish a “de-escalation zone” in Syria’s Idlib. The agreement calls for deploying Russian, Turkish and Iranian observers there. This marks the first time that Damascus agrees to the Turkish military presence on the ground in Syria.
It is believed that the shelling of the SDF positions east of Deir al-Zour is a political sign from Moscow that Ankara opposes the People’s Protection Units, which are considered the backbone of the SDF.
Turkey had deemed the SDF as a terrorist group.
The shelling was also seen as Russian pressure on Washington’s allies east of the Euphrates to draw up new agreements. One of the goals is to allow the Syrian regime and its ally, Lebanon’s “Hezbollah”, to cross the river in order to surround the town of Alboukamal and later attack it.
Hamo told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We want clarification over the sides that carried out the shelling and why.”
“We have been fighting ISIS, which is a threat to the world. We have defeated it in several regions and we struck victories against it to an extent that it is on the verge of being wiped out. Why are they shelling our forces? Are they bothered by ISIS’ elimination?”
He revealed the strike targeted an SDF and Deir al-Zour Military Council post in northern Deir al-Zour.
“Russia says that it wants to combat terrorism, so why is it fighting an effective side that is working against the terrorists?” he wondered.
Syrian regime forces and the Iranian-backed “Hezbollah” had infiltrated, with Russian cover, Deir al-Zour, which had prompted Washington to support the SDF’s advance on al-Shadadi in Reef al-Hasakeh leading to Deir al-Zour. The SDF made its advance to expel ISIS and seize control of the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
There appears to have been an agreement between Washington and Moscow where the eastern bank would be controlled by the SDF and its allies, while the western bank would go to the Syrian regime and its allies.
Russia had however continued to provide military gear and reinforcements for its allies to cross over onto the east bank. Spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova confirmed that the regime forces had indeed crossed the Euphrates.
A western official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the US has no problem in the regime and its allies crossing the river and surrounding Alboukamal, which lies near the Iraqi border.
Hamo however reiterated his opposition to this move, warning that it may lead to a clash between the regime and SDF.
“The People’s Protection Units will liberate Deir al-Zour and areas east of the Euphrates of ISIS mercenaries no matter the cost,” he vowed.
Prior to the shelling of the SDF positions, Syrian regime aide Buthaina Shaaban had told “Hezbollah’s” al-Manar television that the regime forces will fight the SDF.
“We will fight them whether they are the SDF or ISIS or any other illegitimate foreign force that supports them,” she said.
“We will struggle against them until all of our land is liberated,” she stressed.
In addition, she accused the SDF of seeking to seize more land, noting that they “have replaced ISIS in several areas without resorting to fighting.” She said this implying that the SDF is complicit with the extremists.
Hamo stared: “It is known who has conspired with ISIS. The regime conspired with it in Hama.”
He added that his forces had informed the US of the details of the shelling against the SDF, saying that the Russians had informed the Americans that the strike was a “mistake” and that it would not happen again.