Clashes between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Elite Forces (Quwat al Nukhba), an Arab factions affiliated to SDF, have erupted in eastern Deir Ezzor on Thursday.
According to local sources, members of the SDF attempted to remove a Free Syrian Army (FSA) flag from a checkpoint operated by Elite Forces fighters in Al Bahra village. Clashes that followed left a number of wounded on both sides.
The conflict was put to an end after the US military located at Al Tanak oil field intervened.
Elite Forces used to be a FSA unit before the faction joined the SDF. The group is backed by an influential Syrian opposition figure Ahmad Jarba, former president of the National Coalition.
Tensions between the SDF and its Arab elements threaten to become another burden on the US-backed units that have suffered an unexpected setback in its offensive against ISIS in Deir Ezzor. Over the last few days, the SDF sustained substantial casualties and were forced to retreat from Al Sousa, Baghuz Fawqani and Mouzan villages after ISIS terrorists exploited a sandstorm to conduct a number of raids on their positions.
In addition to that, on Wednesday the Turkish army targeted SDF positions in the cities of Kobane and Tel Abyag located near Syria-Turkey border. The attack was preceded by statement made by Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who announced Turkey’s intention to conduct a large-scale operation against “terror groups” east of Euphrates river.
The SDF condemned the attack and accused Turkey of hindering the operation against ISIS terrorists in eastern Deir Ezzor. In a statement released by the SDF the group announced that the offensive has been halted until Turkeys stop its attacks.
The US-led International Coalition claimed that it is “aware of the situation” and has been in contact with both Turkey and the SDF to de-escalate.