ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have launched an operation against the Islamic State (IS) in the north of Deir al-Zor Province in Syria, according to a statement on Saturday.
Officials from the Deir al-Zor Military Council (DMC), fighting as part of the SDF, said the campaign would target militants in the north and east of the Euphrates river, close to the Iraqi border.
On Friday, an SDF official told Reuters they would launch the assault from the south of Hassakah, an area controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The Kurdish-led forces are engaged in an ongoing battle against IS in Raqqa, the militant group’s de facto capital and last major stronghold in Syria.
The SDF has recaptured over 60 percent of territory in the city as IS continues to suffer heavy losses.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, the SDF had already met IS resistance with heavy clashes in Deir al-Zor.
Ahmed Abu Kholeh, head of the DMC, told Reuters the SDF forces would advance strategically against the extremists.
“The first step is to free the eastern bank of the Euphrates and the areas [IS] still holds,” he said after the Saturday announcement.
“We’re not specifying a timeframe, but we hope it will be a quick operation,” Kholeh continued. “We don’t know how the battles will go after this.”
Regarding hostility with Syrian government forces who are also battling IS in Deir al-Zor, the DMC head said he did not predict clashes, but added the SDF forces would “respond” if fired at.
Earlier this week, the Syrian army reached a region in Deir al-Zor, ending IS’ three-year siege on the province.