SDF marching on rebels backed by Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday said they aim to take the Arab town of Dhiban and arrest Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel, a tribal leader who has mobilized forces against the SDF.
The SDF earlier took large swaths of territory back from Deir ez-Zor, including strongholds of the dismissed Deir ez-Zor Military Council head Abu Khawla, who was arrested by the SDF last week.
The SDF also confirmed they had a positive meeting with Ethan Goldrich, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs and Coalition Commander Major General Joel B. Vowell and tribal leaders to discuss the situation in Deir ez-Zor.
The Akeidat tribe’s Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hifl continues to mobilize fighters in Deir ez Zour as fighting continues & he refuses dialogue with #SDF, insisting contact only with @CJTFOIR.— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) September 2, 2023
Meanwhile, Baggara Sheikh Hashem al-Bashir has been meeting with @CJTFOIR & #SDF all morning. pic.twitter.com/H39etJPfmM
According to Charles Lister, a senior fellow and director of the Syria and Counterterrorism and Extremism programs at the Middle East Institute, the US and SDF met with Sheikh Hashem al-Bashir from the Baggara tribe and discussed ways of thwarting Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel’s attempts to mobilize rebels.
“On the field level, our forces have finished sweeping the town of al-Busira and the greater part of Al-Shuhail, where the operation forces are heading, with a firm decision, to resolve the operation in the town of Al-Dhiban,” the SDF said.
“We affirm that the so-called Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel, who is the head of the sedition, has become wanted by our forces for causing the bloodshed of our fighters and our people, displacing civilians, sabotaging civil service institutions, and fueling attempts to ignite sedition based on orders from external parties,” the SDF said.
The SDF accused Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel of receiving support from the Syrian government.
“The so-called Ibrahim and the armed intruders whom he brought from the west of the Euphrates will not be tolerated.”
Since Aug. 27, heavy clashes broke out between the SDF and Arab tribes in Deir ez-Zor, after the SDF arrested and dismissed Abu Khawla, the head of the Deir ez-Zor Military Council, an Arab majority group that was part of the SDF and fought against ISIS. Since then the conflict has escalated.
The SDF expects the battle for Deir ez-Zor will be finished this week, but it remains to be seen if Sheikh Ibrahim al-Hafel will be able to resist an SDF offensive.