Backed fighters could soon resume offensive against ISIS

Leroy Wright
March 13, 2019

This comes as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced Sunday resuming the fight against the last redoubt of the Daesh in eastern Syria after a deadline given to the Daesh and their families.

However, the group still operates in remote territory elsewhere and has shown it will continue to mount a potent security threat, with a string of insurgent attacks in both countries.

"Our forces have handed a group of people with Moroccan nationality who were in the camps in northern Syria over to the Moroccan government", SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told Reuters.

The jihadists have continued to claim deadly attacks in SDF-held territory in recent months, and the USA military has warned of the need to maintain a "vigilant offensive".

"Our forces have received orders for military action to finish off what is left of the terrorists in Baghouz", a village near the Iraqi border, he said.

The SDF, which the US has partnered with in its fight against Daesh in Syria, consists mainly of the terrorist PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG).

The most hardened IS foreign fighters are still holed up in the area, the SDF has said.

The warplanes of a US-led coalition and mortar fire overnight pounded weapons caches, and tank fire targeted IS positions, he and a spokesperson said.

SDF fighters sat on plastic chairs on the roof of an abandoned building, watching over the camp hundreds of metres from fields dotted with palm trees.

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"The message that these children are not wanted is growing stronger and stronger", said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF's Middle East director.

The battle opened Sunday evening with large explosions and mushroom clouds rising into the air over Baghouz, on the Euphrates River in eastern Syria, as the Syrian Democratic Forces battered the village with artillery and gunfire, hitting an IS ammunition dump.

He said dozens of IS fighters had been killed, and that one SDF fighter was killed and four wounded. In the last two weeks, many fighters appeared to be among those evacuating.

Earlier on Sunday, a Reuters journalist in SDF-held ground observed IS group fighters moving around in the part of Baghouz still under their control.

Those who have fled Baghouz have mostly gone to al-Hol, a displacement camp in northeast Syria whose population has swelled to 62,000 people, 90 percent of them women and children.

"What's holding us up is the civilians, we can see them, women and children inside", he said.

The official said the SDF is believed to have about 5,000 IS fighters in captivity, of which about 4,000 are Iraqis and Syrians.

More than 100 people - mostly young children - have died on the way to the camp of Al-Hol or shortly after arriving, according to the International Rescue Committee aid group.

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