Beirut (AFP) – Tribal figures linked to a US-backed alliance announced plans Monday for a council to run Syria’s Deir Ezzor, as the alliance and regime troops battle jihadists in and around the city.
Held by the Islamic State group, the city is the capital of the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, regarded as a strategic prize by both Syrian troops and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
With Russian backing, Syrian regime forces have seized western parts of the province and breached IS’s years-long siege on parts of the city.
SDF fighters are waging a separate offensive that has captured swathes of territory from IS east of the Euphrates River, which cuts across the province, but have yet to reach the city itself.
Tribal figures on Monday announced they were laying the groundwork for a civil council to run the city after IS’s defeat, according to a statement published by the SDF’s media office.
They called for “establishing a preparatory committee that will discuss (with the local community) the basis and starting points for a civil council for Deir Ezzor.”
Ongoing consultations would aim to reach a “formulation that will express the aspirations of all our people in Deir Ezzor”.
The future council “will be responsible for running the city immediately after its liberation”, the statement added.
It made no mention of regime forces, who are currently in control of about half of Deir Ezzor city, and did not say whether the civil council would coordinate with, or rival, government authorities.
Since 2014, IS has held swathes of the province and about 60 percent of its capital, encircling two regime-held enclaves in the western half of Deir Ezzor city.
Government troops have broken both jihadist sieges and were preparing on Monday to launch an offensive on the eastern districts still held by IS.
“Military reinforcements have been arriving since Sunday night to begin the operation to seize control of the city,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
He said the SDF had advanced to six kilometres (four miles) from the eastern banks of the Euphrates River across from Deir Ezzor city.
The SDF’s advance is backed by the US-led coalition battling IS in Iraq and Syria since 2014.
The coalition, the SDF, Syria’s government and Russia have agreed on a “de-confliction line” in northeastern Syria to prevent the two offensives from clashing.