U.S.-Backed Forces Push to Capture Islamic State’s Last Territory in Syria by Raja Abdulrahim - Wall Street Journal
U.S.-backed forces aided by coalition airstrikes have captured more than three dozen positions and destroyed fortifications as they moved to retake the last territory under Islamic State control following a nearly five-year campaign to eliminate the extremist group from its self-proclaimed caliphate.
“Heavy fighting is going on inside the last village at the moment,” Musta Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said on Sunday on Twitter.
He said the SDF has taken 41 Islamic State positions as it advanced, while foiling a counterattack earlier in the day.
The push to take the village of Baghouz in eastern Syria started over the weekend after more than 20,000 civilians were evacuated from the area over the past 10 days, the SDF said. The civilians fled the shrinking Islamic State pocket, many of them on foot, and were then transferred by the SDF to nearby camps…
U.S.-Backed Fighters Launch Final Push to Defeat ISIS in Syria by Bassem Mroue – AP
U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces said Saturday they have launched a final push to defeat the Islamic State group in the last tiny pocket the extremists hold in eastern Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted that the offensive began Saturday after more than 20,000 civilians were evacuated from the ISIS-held area in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. An SDF statement said the offensive was focused on the village of Baghouz.
The SDF, backed by U.S. air power, has driven ISIS from large swaths of territory it once controlled in northern and eastern Syria, confining the extremists to a small pocket of land near the border with Iraq.
Scores of ISIS fighters are now besieged in two villages, or less than 1 percent of the self-styled caliphate that once sprawled across large parts of Syria and Iraq. In recent weeks, thousands of civilians, including families of ISIS fighters, left the area controlled by the extremists…
Voice of America
U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say they have recaptured 41 positions held by Islamic State militants as they seek to clear the last enclave the militant group controls in eastern Syria.
Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman, tweeted Sunday that SDF forces had destroyed fortifications in the Village of Baghuz, but that heavy fighting continued.
"#SDF have advanced on northern and western axis into Baghuz since 19:00 yesterday evening, capturing 41 positions of ISIS and destroying fortifications. IS counterattack was foiled at 4 am this morning. Heavy fighting is going on inside the last village at the moment," he wrote.
After saving more than 20K civilians from IS-held area and ensuring their safety in nearby camps, #SDF started to move on to the last village remaining under jihadists’ control in N. Syria. Village of Baghuz, which is the only remaining #ISIS pocket, will be cleared soon.
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) February 9, 2019
"There are heavy clashes at the moment. We have launched an assault and the fighters are advancing," an SDF field commander told AFP Sunday.
The SDF, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, is fighting IS in a 4-square-kilometer area that includes Baghuz and is near the Iraqi border.
SDF officials and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated there were about 3,000 battle-hardened IS jihadists, mostly foreigners, in the region.
The observatory also estimated several hundred civilians remained in the area as well.
More than 23,000 Syrian civilians and foreign nationals fled eastern Syria this past week as the SDF, which includes Kurdish YPG militia fighters, prepared to move on IS in Deir el-Zour governorate, according to local officials and activists.
The displaced residents, mostly women and children, have been placed in the Kurdish al-Hol camp in al-Hasakah governorate, in northeast Syria.
The administrator of the camp, Nabil Hassan, told VOA that many of the women and children from the new wave of displacement this week were foreign nationals and family members of IS.
DF began an operation in September to rid Deir el-Zour of IS militants. The U.S.-backed fighters' advance has been slowed by fierce fighting from the IS militants.
The civil war that has engulfed Syria began with Arab Spring protests in 2011. The United Nations estimates more than 400,000 Syrians have died since fighting began in 2011. More than 6 million Syrians have been displaced internally and about 5 million have sought refuge outside the country, with Turkey hosting nearly 3.5 million of them, according to the Brookings Institution.