A mysterious group, named the “Gathering of Rebels in the Land of Deir Ezzor” (GRLD), has threatened Syrian, Russian, Iranian and Kurdish forces in the eastern governorate with a wave of attacks.
In a statement released on August 18, the group called on locals to stay away from military positions and installations in Deir Ezzor.
The group also declared a “military zone” in the following areas:
- The cities of Deir Ezzor, al-Mayadin and al-Bukamal.
- The towns of Abu Hamam, al-Tayyana, al-Asharah, al-Suwar, al-Shheell, Jadeed Ekedat, al-Hisan, al-Kasrah and al-Shaddadi.
- The al-Khurafi and Abu Khashab highways.
The GRLD, which appeared for the first time last year, claimed responsibility for the August 18 attack on Russian troops in Deir Ezzor. A Russian major-general was killed and two service members were injured in the attack.
The group identifies itself as a unit of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA). This was, however, denied by the SNA.
“The Ministry of Defense in the Syrian Interim Government denies that the alleged formation of the GRLD is affiliated with the SNA,” the ministry said in a statement.
In its statement, the ministry accused the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of creating the GRLD and other fictional groups in order to discredit the SNA and to promote its own interests in Deir Ezzor.
The GRLD indeed appears to be nothing more than a propaganda stunt. The SDF may be behind this. However, there is no evidence to back this accusation.