The US-led coalition press office decided to hold to its earlier claims that Syrians had been fleeing both north and south from the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor, even after the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman criticised the statement as “geographically absurd”.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Syrians have been fleeing both north and south from the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor, the US-led coalition told Sputnik after the Russian military accused it of having no clue about the situation on the ground.
“People in general are fleeing north from Dayr Az Zawr to escape regime/Russian-backed operations. There are reports that 200 people per day have also been fleeing south to Rukban IDP [Internally displaced people] camp,” the press office of the coalition’s joint task force said Friday.
Confusion about where Syrians were escaping to from the recently-recaptured city was sparked by Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, commander of Special Operations Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, who said thousands of Arabs were going to Mayadin in the south to areas under control of the Syrian opposition.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov argued Thursday this was “geographically absurd” because territories held by the rebel Syrian Democratic Forces lied to the north of Deir ez-Zor. He added no one would flee toward Raqqa, a former Islamist stronghold, after it was gutted by coalition airstrikes.
“It was strange to hear the coalition’s task force commander make a geographically absurd statement about ‘thousands of Arabs’ fleeing Deiz ez-Zor that was freed from IS [Daesh] to Mayadin in the south but say they were going north, rather than south, which is populated by Arabs,” Konashenkov said.