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Asharq Al-Awsat Bears Witness to Last Battles between SDF, ISIS in Syria

Asharq Al-Awsat Bears Witness to Last Battles between SDF, ISIS in Syria

Tuesday, 12 February, 2019 - 10:00
A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces stands on a pick up truck mounted with a weapon near Baghouz, Deir Ezzour, Syria February 11, 2019. (Reuters)
Deir Ezzour (Syria) – Kamal Sheikho
The ISIS terrorist group is making its last stand in Syria in the town of Baghouz east of the Euphrates River.

Asharq Al-Awsat toured the region near the Iraqi border to bear witness to the battles between the terrorist group and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The battles are being waged in the eastern neighborhoods of the town and the SDF has blamed the delay in its certain victory against ISIS on the presence of civilians on the frontlines.

SDF media officer Mustafa Bali said that some 500 to 600 mostly foreign fighters are present in these areas along with hundred of trapped civilians.

He revealed that the majority of those arrested in Baghouz in the past two months were foreigners.

A tour of Baghouz showed signs of destruction throughout the streets and neighborhoods, evidence of the fierce battles between the SDF and ISIS.

Bulldozers have cleared the streets of the rubble, but life has yet to return to normal in the town. SDF fighters can be seen deployed around the streets, standing guard at various positions. The heavy silence is broken by the sound US-led coalition fighter jets and blasts caused by the dismantling of explosives by demining teams.

The most jarring scene lies in the town center where the fighting was so fierce that houses and stores alike have been turned into rubble.

The SDF had announced a halt in the fighting some two weeks ago in order to spare civilian lives, accusing ISIS of using them as human shields.

Bali said that the forces were patiently approaching the battle, revealing that more than 20,000 civilians have been evacuated from the last remaining besieged pocket.

The SDF re-launched the operation on Saturday.

An informed source revealed that the terrorists had proposed a truce to the SDF that calls for opening safe passages to evacuate its wounded members and deliver food and medical aid. In return, the SDF was asked to release ISIS members, who were detained in recent battles.

The SDF command rejected the offer.

ISIS swept across Syria and Iraq in 2014 when it declared a caliphate across large tracts of the countries. But the group steadily lost ground and its two main prizes - the Syrian city of Raqqa and Iraq’s Mosul - fell in 2017.

The SDF advanced southwards into Deir Ezzour province after capturing Raqqa. Their operations have been focused in areas east of the Euphrates River.

To the west of the Euphrates, in territory otherwise held by the Syrian regime and its allies, ISIS retains a foothold in mountainous terrain.

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