On November 19, a patrol of the Russian Military Police came under attack after entering the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, which is held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Local gunmen, most of whom members of the SDF’s Deir Ezzor Military Council (DMC), opened fire from their assault rifles at the patrol right after it passed the al-Salhiyyah crossing that separates government and SDF-held areas. The gunmen were already waiting for the patrol.
The Russian patrol, which consisted of four armored vehicles, was escorted by two helicopters. However, they didn’t fire back at the attackers, likely because unarmed civilians were present at the scene.
— همام عيسى (@humam_isa) November 19, 2021
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other Syrian opposition sources, no Russian service members were harmed. The Ministry of Defense of Russia has not commented on the dangerous incident, so far.
Following the attack, the US-led coalition deployed a unit near al-Salhiyyah crossing. US troops were seen standing side by side with the gunmen who carried out the attack.
قوات امريڪية تصل لدوار المعامل قرب الصالحية . pic.twitter.com/kkmSLcZE9T
— زين العابدين | Zain (@DeirEzzore) November 19, 2021
In October, a group of DMC fighters prevented a patrol of the Russian Military Police from entering the town of al-Jininah in the western Deir Ezzor countryside. Back then, they didn’t fire at the patrol or attempt to assault Russian troops.
The DMC, led by former ISIS member Rashid Abu Khawla, is infamous for its criminal activities, mainly oil and drug trafficking. The formation enjoys very close relations with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
It’s highly unlikely that DMC fighters acted on their own. The attack on the Russian patrol may have been a planned provocation meant to keep Russian troops away from the SDF-held part of Deir Ezzor. The SDF, whose troops were supposed to escort and guard the patrol, is yet to commented on the incident.
The attack will not likely go unpunished. Russian forces in Syria could respond by striking posts of the DMC, or even its illegal oil and drugs trafficking operations.