Published: Tue, March 12, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Backed fighters make limited advances against IS in Syria

Backed fighters make limited advances against IS in Syria

The last IS fighters are hunkering down in an area that includes a dismal camp of pickup trucks and cloth-covered trenches by the reedy banks of the Euphrates.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an assault to capture Islamic State's last shred of territory in eastern Syria.

Afrin said that, despite these obstacles, SDF fighters, under cover of US-led coalition planes, had managed to take control of "a small area" in Baghuz village, the scene of a key battle between Islamic State and SDF over the past few weeks.

Shiekh said that to minimize casualties the SDF will advance on the ground, with the US -led coalition providing air support.

The advances in Baghouz by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab coalition of fighters, have been slow as they are facing a major threat from militants hidden in underground tunnels, as well as booby-traps laid by the group's remaining diehards.

"The fighting is direct and intense", Bali said, adding that so far there have been no casualties among SDF fighters.

Before the recent offensive started last month, SDF officials estimated that 1,500 civilians and 500 ISIS fighters remained, but as the assault got under way it became clear that the actual number was much higher.

SDF explosives experts have begun removing mines and booby-traps "to open the way for our attacking forces", the SDF statement said.

Referring to ISIS fighters from the Kurdish region of Iran, Bali said: "They are from eastern Kurdistan".

Daesh members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz
Daesh members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz

US-backed fighters are moving slowly into the final pocket of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in eastern Syria to avoid losses in the face of sniper fire and landmines, according to commanders.

At its height, the IS controlled huge swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.

Once the village is taken, the United States and its allies are expected to formally declare the end of the "caliphate" proclaimed by IS in 2014.

But beyond Baghouz, Daesh maintains a presence in Syria's vast Badia desert and has claimed a series of deadly attacks in SDF-held territory.

Syria's Kurds hold hundreds of foreigners accused of fighting for IS as well as members of their families.

Evacuees are screened by the SDF as they emerge and are sent north to the al-Hol camp, already overcrowded with uprooted Syrians and Iraqis from years of war and struggling to cope with the influx.

Britain has revoked citizenship from two more women who joined the militant Islamic State group in Syria, a newspaper reported on Sunday, raising questions about the fate of their children.

The Kurdish-led SDF with the backing of the US-led coalition has launched a crushing offensive to eliminate Daesh from the eastern Euphrates River region in eastern Syria since September previous year.

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