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This week in northern Syria
#40: September 9th - September 15th
09/10/23: Hêzên Rizgariya Efrînê (HRE) published a statement claiming seven attacks over the previous month against SNA forces along the front lines of Afrin, Mare’, and al-Bab, four of which were filmed by the SDF-aligned group.
09/11/23: The Syrian Interim Government’s Ministry of Defense released a short video explaining the role of the Military Judicial Administration. This is the court system charged with handling cases involving members of the SNA, brought forth by the SNA Military Police. There are two military courthouses, a recently opened one seen in the video located in al-Ra’i and an other in Ras al-’Ain.
09/11/23: The SDF claimed to have arrested an Islamic State commander in the town of al-Busayrah, Deir ez-Zour, during its anti-insurgency campaign of the previous week. Al-Busayrah has been at the center of IS anti-SDF activity this year, both geographically and quantifiably.
09/11/23: Local Deir ez-Zour pages claimed tribal fighters attacked an oil tanker in the town of al-’Izbah. This is one of many reported insurgent attacks on the SDF in the region over the course of the week, which points to the security situation being tenuous in some areas of Deir ez-Zour, despite SDF military victory vs. the tribal uprising.
09/12/23: Hadi al-Bahrah was elected President of the Syrian National Coalition by the Coalition’s General Authority consisting of about 80 individuals. This came with allegations that the electors were forced to elected al-Bahrah by President of the Syrian Interim Government ‘Abd al-Rahman Mustafa. According to Enab Baladi al-Bahrah is a member of what is known within the Coalition as the “G-4,” a group of four individuals including al-Bahrar’s predecessor Salem al-Meslet who have largely monopolized power within the organization through their close ties to Turkey and ‘Abd al-Rahman Mustafa.
09/13/23: Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Menendez (D-NJ) issued a statement calling for the SDF to “take concrete steps to address the real and deeply held grievances expressed by the region’s Arab population – by ceasing arrest campaigns and following through with the recently announced prisoner releases and political conference to be held in Deir Ez-Zour.” Reports of a widespread arrest campaign by the SDF in Deir ez-Zour have circulated on local media throughout the week.
09/13/23: Former head of the SNA and long time opposition figure Salim Idris announced his withdrawal from the Syrian National Coalition via Twitter. Idris did not specify the reasons behind his move but it’s suspected to be related to the election of Hadi al-Bahrah as SNC President.
09/13/23: SDF commander Mazloum ‘Abdi reportedly met with a delegation of local intellectuals at the International Coalition’s Green Village base in Deir ez-Zour as part of reconciliation efforts following the local uprising of the last several weeks. According to DeirEzzor 24 a number of items largely relating to diminishing the SDF’s reliance on tribes in its local military and governance system were agreed to.
09/14/23: A dispute within SNA-affiliated faction Ahrar al-Sham Eastern Sector threatened to reignite large scale clashes between the SNA and HTS. Ahrar al-Sham Eastern Sector was at the center of that conflict which took place in June and October of last year as it came to light that at least portions of it act on behalf of HTS within SNA-controlled Euphrates Shield region. Over the course of the fighting HTS was able to enter Afrin and later establish a widely reported covert presence in the region, but was ultimately stopped by Turkey from advancing further east. Since then Ahrar al-Sham Eastern Sector has formally been a member of Tajammu’ al-Shahba’, a controversial umbrella group formed in February 2023 and eschewed by the SNA. Recently Ahrar al-Sham Eastern Sector commander Muhammed Rami/Abu Haidar Maskanah decided to join the SNA’s Second Legion, led by close Turkish ally Furqat al-Sultan Murad, and to remove pro-HTS figures Hussein al-Talib/Abu al-Dahdah Manbij and Zakaria al-Sharidah/Abu ‘Omar al-Homsi from their positions. This immediately drew the ire of HTS as it threatened the group’s indirect control of the lucrative al-Hamran crossing (also known as Umm Juloud) with SDF-controlled Manbij. The Ahrar al-Sham Eastern Sector Shura Council then announced the dismissal of Abu Haidar and his replacement with Abu al-Dahdah, leading to a schism within the membership which saw component brigades in ‘Ablah and around al-Hamran side with Abu Haidar and those in ‘Awlan and al-Bab side (four out of fourteen total according to SyriaTV) with Abu al-Dahdah.
On Thursday elements of Ahrar al-Sham Eastern Sector loyal to Abu al-Dahdah Manbij - along with HTS members covertly sent to the Euphrates Shield region in the previous weeks under the guise of ‘tribal forces’ seeking to fight the SDF - mobilized to seize the crossing from Abu Haidar Maskanah, while HTS sent additional forces through Afrin to with the intention of entering ‘Euphrates Shield.’ Turkey reportedly put pressure on SNA Second Legion factions Furqat al-Hamzah and Furqat al-Sultan Suleiman Shah, both of whom sided with HTS in October 2022, to block HTS’s advance, while setting up its own checkpoint in Kafr Jannah, located just outside A’zaz within the Afrin region. Ultimately Abu Haidar’s bloc within Ahrar al-Sham Eastern Sector maintained control of the al-Hamran crossing, while HTS backed down in Afrin, reportedly billeting its mobilized troops at an Ahrar al-Sham base just south of Afrin city.
09/15/23: Clashes broke out between regime security forces and the local chapter of the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF) in the city of al-Hasakah. Fighting revolved around Damascus’s attempt to remove local NDF commander ‘Abd al-Qadir Hamo from his position. Hamo had caused a uproar last month in the small regime-controlled pocket of al-Hasakah city after beating a sheikh of the local Jabbour tribe.
09/15/23: A Turkish drone strike killed three YPJ fighters, including “member of the YPJ Military Council Command and the Commander of the Manbij Military Council Şervin Serdar,” while traveling by car just south of Manbij city. According to the YPJ obituary Serdar joined the PKK in 1998 and was involved in recent fighting in Deir ez-Zour.