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Asharq Al-Awsat at Frontline of Last ISIS Pocket in Syria

Asharq Al-Awsat at Frontline of Last ISIS Pocket in Syria

Monday, 11 February, 2019 - 08:00
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces and US soldiers (L) gather at the al-Tanak oil field as they prepare to relaunch a military campaign against ISIS, near Al-Bukamal, Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, May 1, 2018 (AFP)
Deir Ezzor (eastern Syria) - Kamal Sheikho
The road from the city of Qameshli to the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor is about 300 kilometers long, and the trip usually takes two and a half hours.

But, it took more than five hours on Sunday due to tight security measures and checkpoints erected after the Syrian Democratic Forces launched their final push against ISIS in the area.

The US-backed SDF have been locked in fierce fighting as they press the battle against the last shred of ISIS’ territory in Baghouz.

The SDF estimates that ISIS is holding onto fewer than four square kilometers in Syria.

On the highway leading to the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, life seemed slowly returning to towns and villages located far from the fighting.

Residents were seen shopping at stores, and gas stations were seen sprouting.

In Al Sour, residents returned to the town and began selling fabrics, clothes and colored caftans, which the area is known for, and which were banned during the ISIS rule.

At the entrance of the Al Basira town that is close to the last ISIS pocket, dozens of cars waited in long lines at checkpoints before heading in the direction of Hasakah in the north.

At the checkpoints, the SDF ask for personal IDs and vehicle documents amid fears that militants could be posing as fleeing civilians and could plot suicide attacks inside and outside Syria.

Burned cars and military vehicles, once used by ISIS militants as booby traps, were seen on the roadside leading to the province of Deir Ezzor.

Walls of public facilities were still tagged with ISIS graffiti, a stark reminder of the gruesome extremist rule that started in 2014.

When darkness falls, the sounds of heavy shelling reverberate in the area as US-backed coalition warplanes pound the last ISIS pockets to confront the extremist diehards.

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