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Syria: Tunnels, Civilians Stall Final anti-ISIS Push

Syria: Tunnels, Civilians Stall Final anti-ISIS Push

Sunday, 17 February, 2019 - 10:00
Members of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand together near Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said
Boghouz, Ankara - Kamal Sheikhou, Saeed Abdulrazzak
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have insofar delayed the announcement of extinguishing the very last ISIS remnants in eastern Syria after terrorists taking human shields and digging up underground attack tunnel.

SDF Commander Jiya Furat said that ISIS militants are now concentrated and lay sieged inside the east Syria Baghouz town which is now “within our fire range.”

Despite the SDF, the Kurdish-Arab outfit that has spearheaded the campaign against ISIS with backing from a US-led coalition, holding the military capacity and advantage to enter the town, they are maintaining positions on the outskirts in fear of an offensive pushing ISIS to take local civilians as human shields.

On the other hand, SDF military spokesman Adnan Afrin said that a search is ongoing to locate attack tunnels dug up by the terror group. The tunnel sweep is to shut down the ISIS underground network.

“The fighting is fierce,” said Afrin.

“There is significant resistance,” he told AFP in Al-Omar oil field, the main staging base for the SDF’s offensive against the very last shred of the original ISIS “caliphate.”

The few hundred fighters of various nationalities holding out in their last bastion by the Iraqi border have launched bruising counterattacks in recent days, Afrin said.

In the meantime, an Iraqi security source said that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi could be trapped in a small pocket near the Iraqi-Syrian border area.

More so, in north Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran may conduct joint military operations against extremist factions overrunning Idlib province if needed.

After confirming chances of a soon joint Idlib offensive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said work for the full implementation of an Ankara-Moscow protocol that brought about a partial ceasefire between the Syrian regime and the opposition terror groups in the enclave will continue. Meanwhile, civilians were killed and wounded by regime bombardment targeting Idlib’s countryside.

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