Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) special forces troops conducted a large operation targeting ISIS operatives, but the Syrian state media news outlet SANA claimed that American and Kurdish troops fired indiscriminately at civilians, killing four members of a single-family while taking hostages during a “large airborne operation” near Deir al-Zor on Monday. 

The SDF claimed to have killed five ISIS members, most of whom were wearing explosive belts during the operation, stating that they had received support from the U.S.-led coalition and that the raid targeted a hideout used by “a dangerous cell of the terrorist” ISIL (ISIS) terror group. However, the Syrians also accused the U.S. of kidnapping “a number of civilians” during the operation that began at dawn. 

5th Special Forces Group (A) Operation Detachment Bravo 5310 arrives to meet Major General James Jarrard at the Landing Zone at base camp Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria

The SDF, a US-backed alliance of mostly Kurdish and Arab fighters, which controls the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northeastern Syria, said in a statement on Monday that the raid took place near the village of al-Busaira.

The Pentagon said U.S-led coalition forces had carried out an operation with the Syrian Democratic Forces in Busayra that killed four ISIS fighters, including one wearing a suicide vest, but there had been no detentions.

“Last night, there were two operations conducted in al-Busayrah, Syria. One was a partnered operation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and the other was a unilateral SDF operation,” Pentagon spokesperson Commander Jessica McNulty said in an email to Al-Monitor.

“The partnered operation resulted in no detentions and the death of four-armed Daesh fighters, one of whom was wearing a suicide vest,” McNulty added.

The raid targeted “known Daesh terrorists responsible for the facilitation of weapons and fighters to support ISIS attacks. These terrorists attacked an SDF checkpoint on December 10, 2021,” McNulty said. 

USMC mortars fire in support of SDF troops in Deir al-Zor, Syria. DVIDS photo

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a watchdog of the Syrian Civil War, said the raid targeted a wanted ISIS member who fled on his motorcycle as the SDF raiding force arrived and was shot dead while fleeing. SOHR added that the force then killed the father and brother of the wanted suspect after they holed up in a barn and refused to come out. The Euphrates Post and other witnesses said there were clashes between the family and the SDF. 

Deir al-Zor is a province that sits astride the Iraqi border and is a strategic supply route for Iranian-proxy militias who regularly send reinforcements into Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. forces are deployed to the base at al-Tanf in southern Deir al-Zor. Their presence has drawn the ire of the Iranian-proxy militias who want a supply landline that stretches from Iran to run through Iraq and Syria, where they can ship weapons, rockets, and missiles to promote their influence in the region. 

While the U.S. and proxy militias are ostensibly there to combat ISIS and further push them out of territory in Iraq and Syria, the militias have attacked the U.S. dozens of times. On October 20, al-Tanf was attacked by drones, an escalation of violence that the militias have opted for.