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SDF Closes in on Last ISIS-held Village in Syria

SDF Closes in on Last ISIS-held Village in Syria

Sunday, 10 February, 2019 - 19:30
Syrian Democratic Forces fighters on the Baghouz frontline. (AFP Photo/DELIL SOULEIMAN)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces captured 41 positions held by ISIS militants and destroyed their fortifications in the last tiny pocket they hold in eastern Syria amid fierce fighting, a spokesman said Sunday.

Mustafa Bali said the Kurdish-led SDF made the advances overnight and on Sunday, hours after they launched a final push to clear the area from extremists Saturday night.

The final battle to clear the village of Baghouz is now playing out after 20,000 civilians were evacuated from the area in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor over the past few weeks.

Bali said heavy fighting was going on inside Baghouz on Sunday, adding that an ISIS counterattack was foiled early in the day. He did not say how long the battle was expected to last. US-led coalition warplanes are giving cover to advancing SDF fighters.

Bali, who is head of the SDF media office, said 400 to 600 militants were estimated to be holed up in the enclave, including foreigners and other hardened fighters.

US President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that ISIS will lose by next week all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.

US officials have said in recent weeks that ISIS has lost 99.5 percent of its territory and is holding onto fewer than 5 square kilometers in Syria, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated. But activists and residents say ISIS still has sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq, and is laying the groundwork for an insurgency. The US military has warned the group could stage a comeback if the counter-terrorism pressure on it is eased.

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