Backed forces attack last ISIS stronghold in Syria

Cheryl Sanders
March 12, 2019

At least 50 people were killed on Monday by USA -led airstrikes on the last Islamic State (IS) stronghold in eastern Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

A spokesman for the US -backed force fighting the Islamic State group says a deadline for the extremists to surrender has ended and the Kurdish-led force will resume its attack on the last area held by the extremists.

SDF said Sunday that they had resumed their campaign to expel Islamic State from the village of Baghuz after briefly suspending it to evacuate civilians still trapped there.

The U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been poised to advance into the enclave for weeks, but has repeatedly held back to allow for the evacuation of civilians, many of them wives and children of Islamic State fighters.

Mustafa Bali of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces says there were still IS militants in the besieged village of Baghouz on Monday, mainly hiding in underground tunnels.

Bali said more than 4,000 IS militants had surrendered in the last month, among the tens of thousands of people who have streamed out of Baghouz - a collection of hamlets surrounded by farmland on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. On Monday, at least one airstrike was carried out and renewed artillery and heavy gunfire rained down on the encampment.

The airstrikes targeted the Daesh-held area in the town of Baghouz in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zour province.

"The clashes are continuing, the operation will continue until Baghouz is liberated, and until the end of the terrorist military presence in that area", he said.

On Monday, the head of the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said there were about 3,000 children from 43 countries living in al-Hol, along with many more Syrian and Iraqi children, in "extremely dire conditions".

Abandoned tents, vehicles and foxholes to hide from airstrikes are all that are left from evacuated parts of the Islamic State group's last shred of territory in Syria. The other 1,000 or so are "foreign" fighters from dozens of other countries, the official said.

A senior USA defence official said last week that the SDF is believed to have about 5,000 IS fighters in captivity, of whom about 4,000 are Iraqis and Syrians.

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 battle to completely retake the pocket is likely to take three days, an SDF official, Aras Orkesh, said earlier. The fight against Daesh has taken place amid Syria's almost 8-year-old civil war.

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

Other reports by iNewsToday