Wed 13 Nov 2019

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Residents of eastern Euphrates fear Syrian regime’s return

Demonstrations in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor against the return of the Syrian regime - 25 October 2019 (The Euphrates Post)

Demonstrations in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor against the return of the Syrian regime - 25 October 2019 (The Euphrates Post)

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Residents of northeast Syria live in a situation of uncertainty and fear of the return of Syrian regime and Russian into their cities and towns, following the recent Russian- Turkish agreement. The agreement brought an end to Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring, which aimed at dislodging the elements of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) From the Euphrates region.

On 22 October, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin agreed to remove all YPG elements from the Syrian border strip to the depth of 30 km within 150 hours. The YPG will have to withdraw their fighters and weapons from the towns of Manbij and Tal Rifaat.

According to the agreement, Russian and Turkish forces will begin patrolling a strip of of 10 km along the Syrian-Turkish border with the exception of the city of Qamishli. The Syrian border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn will remain under the control of the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) for a depth of 32 km.

Residents’ fears

After the announcement of the Russian-Turkish agreement, a number of residents of Raqqa, al-Tabqah, Manbij and Deir Ezzor expressed deep dissatisfaction with the agreement. Video footage was posted on social media, denouncing and refusing the return of the Syrian regime forces to their areas. For instance, a group of residents of al-Tabqa expressed their categorical rejection to the return of Syrian regime control as its troops moved into the town.

Two citizens from Raqqa city, speaking to Enab Baladi on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said that Raqqa was gripped by fear of the Syrian regime’s intention to recapture the city under the Turkish-Russian agreement. The sources pointed out that a large number of people, some of whom were wanted by the Syrian regime and displaced to Raqqa, are preparing themselves to leave the city without knowing where to go. They do not know yet the details of the agreement and the areas that the Syrian regime and Russia will enter.

Activists from the provinces of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa called for demonstrations on Friday, 25 October, in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, Raqqa and al-Tabqa to refuse the entry of the Syrian regime and Iranian militias to their areas. Moreover, the Arab military councils, which formed a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), objected to the regime’s return to Deir Ezzor.

According to Deir Ezzor 24 network, a brigade commander of the SDF’s Deir Ezzor military council said, “we do know that more than 75% of residents of Deir Ezzor are wanted by the Assad regime. And the entry of Assad’s forces into the eastern Euphrates will cause a catastrophe. Therefore, we will not allow any kind of such aggression, and we stand ready to confront Assad’s forces and Iranian militias if they think or want to advance to east of the Euphrates.”

The commander added, “we have weapons and equipment that can cover a large geographical area. There would be no negotiations on the entry of Assad to Deir Ezzor. We have our own decision and we will not compromise on Deir Ezzor. We restructured the Deir Ezzor military council and drew up military plans to confront Assad’s forces in case they approached the eastern Euphrates.”

Manbij on strike

Manbij was one of the first areas to declare its rejection of the Syrian regime’s return even before the recent Sochi agreement between Russia and Turkey. On 21 October, people of the city staged a strike in response to the agreement concluded between the SDF and the Syrian regime, which provided for the deployment of regime forces in areas controlled by the SDF.

The strike followed calls by some tribes and activists to reject the entry of Syrian regime forces into the city. Several areas in the city were shut down including the main market, the covered market, the Salalin market, al-Kawakibi street, al-Serb district, al-Akashin market, the public garden street and Aleppo road. Activists pointed out that the strike rate in Manbij was fully observed across the city.

A tribal representative from Manbij, Abdullah Asaad al-Shallash, the Sheikh of the tribe of Ibn Said, confirmed to Hierapolis local news network in Manbij that the Turkish army and the SNA will take control of the towns and cities of Manbij, Tal Rifaat, Meng, al-Arima and Ayn al-Arab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo as well as the full length of the 30 km border strip with the exception to Enab Baladi.

“We met with two officers from the advisory office of the Turkish presidential office, last Wednesday, in the city of al-Bab, and discussed all the current details regarding the city of Manbij,” al-Shallash said.

He indicated that the tribes of Manbij see the Syrian regime’s return to their city as tantamount to “carrying out a potential genocide” of 200 thousand people wanted  by the regime—between military services, dissidents and opponents. They will all be targeted of the regime.

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