The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have announced a civilian council to govern parts of Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria, following capture of territory from the Islamic State.
In its communique, the council said its priority was the return of tens of thousands of displaced residents and the restoration of basic utilities. It urged the US-led coalition to provide aid.
A Challenge to the Regime
The step is a challenge to the Assad regime, whose military and foreign allies are racing the SDF to seize the province, including Deir ez-Zor city. There have been clashes near the city, with each side accusing the other of firing across the Euphrates River and Russia bombing an SDF position.
On Friday, Kurdish-controlled areas across northern Syria voted in the first of three stages for representatives leading to a regional assembly by January. Bashar al-Assad has denounced any Kurdish move towards autonomy and rejected a federal Syria.
The SDF seized a major gas field in Deir ez-Zor Province from ISIS on Saturday, in a rapid advance that pre-empted pro-Assad forces.
Ilham Ahmed, co-chair of the Democratic Syrian Council, told the Deir ez-Zor represenatives:
Terrorism is beginning to end in Deir ez-Zor and the whole of Syria….These areas need to be stabilized, but the regime’s policies are still focused on rebuilding the centralized system that has lasted for decades and is not prepared yet to change its authoritarian regime that has caused destruction to the whole of Syria.
It is high time the regime changed and compromised to take some steps towards democracy….
[The] federal project proposed in the Syrian north was and is still aiming at maintaining security and stability in the area, a form in which the people manage themselves, as now where the people of Deir ez-Zor are taking responsibility for post-liberation of their areas.
Russian Airstrikes Continue on Idlib Province; Turkey Warns “De-Escalation Zone” Agreement at Risk
Opposition outlets say Russian warplanes have continued their week-long air assault on Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
The sites said there were more than 50 raids overnight. Among casualties were five members from one family in the village of al-Dana in northern Idlib, with other civilians injured; a woman killed and four people wounded in the town of Ma’arshourin in rural Idlib; two civilians killed and several injured in Ein Zarka; and one killed and others injured in Khan Sheikhoun.
Multiple casualties — one report said 10 killed and 20 wounded — were reported when tankers were set alight outside Sarmin.
Shelling on the town of Bdama killed a child and hurt three civilians were injured as a result of artillery shelling on the town of Bdama, while several were wounded in attacks on the town of Quneitra, west of Idlib city.
Using the pretext of attacks by rebels and the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham on regime positions in neighboring northern Hama Province, Russian and regime warplanes launched the first of hundreds of strikes last Tuesday. Civilian sites, include hospital and civil defense centers, have been targeted as well as headquarters of rebel factions who signed an agreement for a Russian-backed “de-escalation zone” earlier this month.
Burning tankers near Sarmin:
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu criticized the airstrikes on Monday, warning they could put the Russian-Iranian-Turkish agreement for the zone in jeopardy.
“If they continue arbitrary bombing everywhere, the outcome might be Aleppo. There could be the risk of a new migration wave,” Çavuşoğlu said.
The Foreign Minister said Turkey has suggested to Iran and Russia that the three countries could jointly determine the location of “terrorists” in Idlib Province. He added that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will discuss the issue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Attacks on the town of al-Dana:
The remains of a building in al-Dana:
Bidema and Zeneya: