Russia slams US commander’s 'geographically absurd' statement on Syrians fleeing Deir ez-Zor

Russia slams US commander’s 'geographically absurd' statement on Syrians fleeing Deir ez-Zor
Russia called out the commander of the US-led task force targeting ISIS in Syria and Iraq after he made a “geographically absurd” remark about civilians fleeing Deir ez-Zor for the north, rather than the south. Moscow says civilians aren’t fleeing at all.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) responded to Army Maj. Gen. James Jarrard’s Monday statements, in which he said that “hundreds and thousands of Arabs that are fleeing from around the Euphrates River Valley, from Deir ez-Zor, to Mayadin, to down around Al-Qa'im.”

He claimed that they are “fleeing the regime liberation” and “not going south into Arab-controlled territories,” instead flocking to “SDF-controlled territories” to the north of Deir ez-Zor.

However, the MoD took to Facebook to note more than one inaccuracy in Jarrard’s statements. For starters, it pointed out that while Jarrard claimed civilians were fleeting to Al-Mayadeen, he also said they were fleeing north.

Such a statement is “geographically absurd,” the MoD pointed out, since Al-Mayadeen is south of Deir ez-Zor. “The city of Al-Mayadeen [is] located 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) to the south from Deir ez-Zor,” the ministry wrote.

It went on to note that to the north of Deir ez-Zor is Raqqa, which was wiped out by the US-led liberation campaign.

“No Syrians seem to be willing to leave Deir ez-Zor northwards, to liberated Raqqa. Because there is no Raqqa after bombardments carried out by the US-led coalition,” the MoD wrote.

The ministry then challenged the very substance of Jarrard’s remarks, stating that civilians are actually not fleeing Deir ez-Zor for anywhere – north or south.

“Thousands of Syrians are not ‘leaving’ Deir ez-Zor for Al-Mayadeen but are returning to their homes with humanitarian aid delivered by the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides and international humanitarian organizations,” the ministry wrote.

Jarrard also managed a second faux pas during the same briefing on Monday, claiming that there are 4,000 US troops in Syria supporting efforts against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces.

It took a journalist to point out that he thought the number was much less, prompting Jarrard to correct himself. “I’m sorry. I misspoke there. There are approximately 500 [US] troops in Syria,” the commander said.

The three-year siege of Deir ez-Zor was lifted by the Syrian Army earlier this year, with the support of the Russian military. Over 90 percent of Syria has now been freed from terrorists, according to Moscow, with the head of the Lower House Committee for Defense saying just days ago that Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) will “cease to exist” as a military structure in Syria by the end of 2017.