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Syrian Kurdish YPG says it seized eastern region from Daesh

On western bank, Syrian military wages its own attack against Daesh

By Reuters - Dec 04,2017 - Last updated at Dec 04,2017

Syrians pray in front of the body of a victim during his funeral following a reported air strike in the rebel-held besieged town of Arbin, in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of Damascus, on Saturday (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Sunday it had fully captured Deir Ezzor's eastern countryside from the Daesh terror group with the help of both the US-led coalition and Russia. 

The YPG spearheads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of mostly Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Daesh with Washington's backing. The SDF offensive in Deir Ezzor province, which borders Iraq, has focused on territory east of the Euphrates River. 

On the western bank, the Syrian military has waged its own attack against Daesh with support from Iran-backed militias and Russia. 

The separate assaults advanced from opposite sides of the river, which bisects oil-rich Deir Ezzor, mostly staying out of each other's way. The US-led coalition and the Russian military have held deconfliction meetings — to prevent clashes between planes and troops — though the two offensives have sometimes come into conflict.

The SDF's most powerful component, the YPG, announced that it had defeated Daesh militants on its side "in cooperation with the Arab tribes”.

The US-led coalition and Russian forces in Syria provided "air and logistical support, advice and coordination on the ground”, its statement said. "We hope for an increase in this support and for ensuring the necessary air cover."

 A YPG spokesman declared the victory in a village in Deir Ezzor in the presence of a Russian envoy from Moscow's Hmeimim military base in Syria, it said. 

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that as the battle against Daesh entered its final stages, he expected the focus to move towards holding territory instead of arming Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Washington's support for the YPG has infuriated Turkey, which sees the growing influence of Kurdish forces on its border as a security threat. Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) movement, which has fought a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil. 

Since the start of Syria's conflict in 2011, the YPG and its allies have carved out autonomous regions in the north. They now control around a quarter of Syria, the largest part outside government control, after seizing vast land from Daesh. 

Their autonomy plans face opposition from their battlefield ally Washington, from Turkey and from the Syrian government.

The YPG said on Sunday it was forming civil councils for Deir Ezzor that include Kurds, Arabs and other components based on "the principle of democracy and self-rule”. It would mirror governing arrangements in other towns and cities that the Kurdish fighters and their allies captured.

 

With Daesh close to collapse in Syria, Syrian Kurdish leaders hope for a phase of negotiations to shore up their autonomy in the north. But in recent months, the Damascus government and its Iranian allies have more forcefully asserted ambitions to take territory under the control of Kurdish-led forces.

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