DEIR AL-ZOR (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday said they had relaunched their operation against the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq.
Speaking to Kurdistan 24, Lilwa al-Abdallah, a spokesperson for the offensive in oil-rich Deir al-Zor Province, said the operation would be backed by the US-led coalition forces, including American and French troops.
“Our forces aim to secure the Syrian-Iraqi borders and drive out Daesh from the area,” she said, using the pejorative Arabic acronym for IS.
“IS retains a significant presence near the Iraqi borders from which it seeks to retain a safe haven to plan attacks around the world and expand its territory in Syria and Iraq,” Abdallah added.
The US welcomed this step by the SDF and confirmed its support for the operation.
“We will defend United States, Coalition and partner forces if attacked,” US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.
In a press conference held in eastern Deir al-Zor, a statement was read by top SDF commanders, which the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is the leading element, confirming they are fighting in the final assault.
“Our forces will secure the Iraqi-Syrian border and eliminate [IS] in eastern Syria comprehensively,” the SDF statement read.
Ahmad Abu Khawla, the higher command of Deir al-Zor Military Council fighting under the SDF, told Kurdistan 24 they had a joint operation room with the Iraqi army to fight against the extremist group.
“We welcome the support of Iraqi forces across the border and our partners in the international coalition,” he said.
The SDF had paused the battle against IS after Turkey launched an assault in January on the northwestern Afrin region.
Then, the SDF redeployed 1,700 fighters from eastern fronts against IS to help fight the Turkish military, which then captured Afrin in March.
The SDF alliance, spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG forces, has seized vast tracts of territory from IS in north and east Syria.
US support for them, however, has infuriated Turkey, which sees the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been engaged in a three-decade fight in Turkey for Kurdish rights.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih)