The ‘Seven-kilometer-zone’ Makes Regime Anxious In Deir ez-Zor
Almost two years into the Syrian regime’s control of Deir ez-Zor, the demonstrations found their way back to the streets, demanding that its forces withdraw from the towns in the east of the Euphrates river, which a state of extreme tension gave rise to caused by the military threats waged against the area and its residents.
The protests, witnessed by the seven-kilometer-zone on September 20, covered the towns of al-Salhiah, Hussainiya, Marrat and Khsham under the title: Friday of Liberation.
The protestors held signs calling for the withdrawal of the Syrian regime forces from the Seven-Kilometer-Zone, to which the forces responded by shooting at the protestors, who, for their part, charged at military posts and checkpoints, especially the one set up at the al-Saqer Filling Station, near the al-Salhiah Crossing.
Local news networks, Deir ez-Zor 24 among others, posted videos documenting the clashes between the protestors and the regime forces and a conversation between an officer, ranked colonel, and the locals, where the first was attempting to ease the tension.
The protestors caused the death of three persons, two civilians and a combatant of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who had civilian clothes on as he blended with the protestors, in addition to the injury of more than 10 civilians and the arrest of many others, as reported by the Hawar News Agency and Deir ez-Zor 24 Network.
The Seven-kilometer-zone comprises the Syrian regime-held towns in the east of the Euphrates. The protests, however, kicked off from the SDF-controlled areas, darting towards checkpoints and areas taken over by the regime forces.
The town of al-Salhiah creates a spatial barrier between the two sides’ areas of control, which the locals consider the lifeblood of their area’s economy, being a route for transporting goods and other commercial-related purposes.
Behind popular outrage is extreme tension
The protests are attributed to military threats waged by commanders of Syrian regime’s allied militias, featured in videos posted last week by local Facebook pages, including Furat Post, blustering to storm the areas in Deir ez-Zor held by the Deir ez-Zor Military Council, affiliated with the SDF.
Most notable of these videos was that belonging to one of the Baqir Brigade’s commanders, who threatened to invade the western rural parts of Deir ez-Zor, while raining the area’s residents with accusations and insults in the presence of Russian officers.
A state of outrage has taken a hold of the residents because of these threats, relating to the regime and its forces, which urged the area’s population to call on the regime forces to retreat from the area, the Director of the Deir ez-Zor 24 Network, Omar Abu Lila, told Enab Baladi.
The SDF responded to the threats with a statement by the Field Commander of its affiliate Deir ez-Zor Military Council, Mohammad al-Khalil, in the presence of the prince of the al-Bakeer Tribes , Ahmad al-Khabil, saying that it is ready to combat any offensive against its areas of control that the regime forces or its allies would embark on.
In the aftermath of the threats, the SDF has also closed down the al-Salhiah crossing and destroyed the water crossings on both banks of the Euphrates, backed by the US-led coalition, to prevent any attempts at progress to its areas on the part of the Syrian regime.
The SDF, Abu Lila told Enab Baladi, did not call the people to hold protests, as local Facebook pages reported. But, at the same time, it did not prevent them, which increased the number of anti-regime protesters in the area’s towns.
Regime is silent
On its turn, the Syrian regime did not officially comment on the protests, satisfied with its official media outlets that reported the organization of popular demonstrations refusing the SDF’s control of cities in the east of the Euphrates.
Pro-regime Facebook pages, including the Deir ez-Zor News Network, have on September 20, posted photos of counter pro-regime demonstrations in Deir ez-Zor, where anti-SDF slogans were shouted and signs held, while others glorified the Syrian regime.
The Deir ez-Zor News Network posted, “Now, the people of the towns of Marrat and Khsham and the countryside of the Deir ez-Zor province in general are igniting the squares in the face of the American occupation and the separatist militias after they sent their dogs to protest against the Syrian government today, Friday, for the blessed sons of our countryside have met all the attempts at protest with refusal.”
The Syrian regime accuses the SDF of committing crimes against the population of the areas east of the Euphrates, which the latter controls, describing it with ‘separatist militias’ and repeatedly demanding that the SDF hands it these areas. The latest of these calls was a statement presented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the United Nations (UN) and the Security Council on September 15, which the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted.
The SDF, nonetheless, and its political wing, the Syria Democratic Council (SDC), have both denied these accusations. The SDC has also called on the regime to take part in the democratic conversation and to give up on the policy, it described oppressive, which is adopting.