The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have closed the al-Salihiyah crossing in the governorate of Deir Ezzor in order to prevent civilians from fleeing to the government-held areas on the western bank of the Euphrates River, Sputnik reported on February 6.
According to the Russian news agency, the US-backed group took this decision in order to prevent civilians and former soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) from joining the reconciliation process. The decision also effected many people who visit to the government-held area to receive medical treatment.
Earlier this week, the Iranian news agency Fars News reported that a “senior commander” of the SDF, named Rikan, had defected to the SAA. Local sources confirmed Fars News’ report and said that the commander escaped through the al-Salihiyah crossing, which may explain the SDF’s decision.
The number of people crossing to the government-held area through the al-Salihiyah crossing increased following the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria. Many young Arab men are now preferring to join the SAA instead of the SDF because the future of the US-backed group appears to be uncertain.
The Kurdish-dominated group will likely reopen the crossing within a few days, as it can’t bear a new crisis with the Damascus government now.