DEIR EZ-ZOR, Syria (North Press) – Calm returned to the towns of Shaheil, Thiban and Hawayej in Deir ez-Zor countryside, northeastern Syria, hours after a number of armed men cut roads and targeted military posts belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the area.
A North Press correspondent stated that dozens of protesters went out on Tuesday afternoon in Hawayej region, east of Deir ez-Zor, demanding an investigation into the assassination of Sheikh Mutashar Hammoud al-Jad’an al-Hafel, an elder of the Akkidat tribe in Deir ez-Zor.
Protest and armed men
He added that the protesters criticized the failure to protect civilians from ISIS sleeper cells and cells belonging to the Syrian government, and that “residents see this as the main reason for the killings and kidnappings in the area.”
Sheikh Mutashar Hammoud al-Jad’an al-Hafel and Sheikh Ibrahim al-Khalil al-Aboud al-Jad’an al-Hafel, who were two of the most prominent tribal figures in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, were attacked by unknown persons on the first day of Eid al-Adha during their return from a tribal reconciliation session, which led to the death of Sheikh Mutashar and his driver, and the injury of Sheikh Ibrahim al-Khalil.
According to local sources, gunmen altered the path of the peaceful demonstration and attacked several SDF checkpoints in the Hawayej area after the withdrawal of all fighters from the area for fear of direct clashes with the protesters.
Gunmen took control of several points and checkpoints after cutting the roads with burning tires, while an SDF patrol was attacked in the Thiban region.
Return of calm
The riots and armed presence affected the towns of Shaheil and Thiban, but calm returned to the area on Tuesday afternoon, after the return of the SDF to the area and the disappearance of the armed individuals.
“The armed individuals and acts of sabotage pave the way for...the cells of the regime and ISIS to tamper with the security and stability of the region,” Mahmoud al-Ahmad, from the town of Shaheil, told North Press.
“The peaceful expression of our demands is a legitimate right and no one can deny it, but acts of sabotage and cutting roads do not help in achieving legitimate demands in providing security, prosecuting the perpetrators, and bringing them to justice,” he added.
Meanwhile, the city of Mayadeen, which is under the control of Syrian government forces and lies on the west bank of the Euphrates River opposite the town of Hawayej, witnessed a demonstration demanding accountability for the killers of Sheikh Mutashar al-Hafel.
“The regime’s running of demonstrations demanding accountability for the perpetrators of the killing of Sheikh Mutashar al-Hafel is a clear exploitation of the rightful demands of the people in the region to provide security and services,” Mahmoud al-Ahmad said.
Militants’ attacks were limited to the three towns in the eastern part of the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, while life appeared normal in all towns, cities, and villages in the western part of the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor.
Meanwhile, pages and websites loyal to the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition called for an armed insurrection in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor, and demanded Arab tribesmen demonstrate against the SDF and “take revenge." Some of these threatened to turn the eastern areas of Deir ez-Zor to "Tora Bora" for the Global Coalition, alluding to the region in Afghanistan that was the site of battles between US forces and al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
Social media circulated video footage of gunmen talking about their attacks on SDF posts, amid the deployment of armed masked men in the streets who set fire to tires after cutting the roads.
The Autonomous Administration condemned the targeting if the tribal leaders on Tuesday, stating that it aimed to create strife among the communities of the region, and that hostile parties accusing the Autonomous Administration and SDF of being responsible for the attacks aim to sow chaos.