Daesh in ‘its inal moments,’ says SDF
They (Daesh) are living the final moments and realise that this battle is the battle to eliminate them, says the Usbacked Syrian Democratic Forces media head; 600 people leave in first evacuation from Daesh holdout: Monitor
Daesh militants are “living their final moments” in the last enclave they hold near the Iraqi border, where Us-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are attacking them, an SDF official said on Sunday.
A defeat of the militants in the enclave would wipe out Daesh’s territorial foothold on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
A spokesman for the Us-led coalition said the SDF were making “great progress ... but the fight continues.”
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of militias led by the Kurdish YPG, have driven Daesh from a swathe of northern and eastern Syria with the help of the Us-led coalition over the last four years.
Mustafa Bali, SDF media office head, said the SDF had stepped up attacks in the last two days and taken control of the area between the Islamic State enclave and the Iraqi border, cutting an escape route.
“They are living the final moments and realise that this battle is the battle to eliminate them,” he added.
US President Donald Trump last month announced he would withdraw US forces from Syria, declaring they had succeeded in their mission to defeat Daesh and were no longer needed.
Since then, US officials have given mixed messages. On Friday, the Usled coalition said it had started the pullout, but officials later said only equipment, not troops, were going.
Colonel Sean Ryan, the coalition spokesman, said: “The SDF is making great progress and continues to liberate more territory once held by Daesh, but the fight continues.
“The lasting defeat of Daesh is still the mission and they still present a very real threat to the long-term stability in this region, so it is not over yet.”
The US decision has injected new uncertainty into the eight-year-old Syrian war and spurred a flurry of contacts over how the security vacuum will be filled in the swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the US forces are now stationed.
While Turkey aims to pursue the Kurdish forces allied with the United States, the Russia- and Iran-backed Syrian government sees a chance to recover extensive territory.
US national security adviser John Bolton suggested last week that protection for Washington’s Kurdish allies would be a precondition of the US withdrawal. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called his comments “a serious mistake.”
Bali said the people of northern Syria and the coalition must discuss a plan for “after the elimination of Daesh, and to take measures to prevent Daesh reorganising itself and returning once again”.
Daesh still holds territory on the western bank of the Euphrates, between areas controlled by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian-backed allies.
Over 600 people were evacuated on Saturday from Daesh group’s remaining holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said, as Us-backed fighters prepare for a final assault on the area.
“More than 600 people, mainly women and children, were evacuated on 25 buses sent” by SDF, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that several dozen fighters were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-arab alliance.
Abdel Rahman said some 16,000 people, including 760 Daesh fighters, have fled the area since the start of December. But “this is the first time that buses have been provided by the SDF and coalition,” he said, suggesting a potential deal had been struck between the warring sides.
The United Nations said on Friday that overall some 25,000 people have fled the violence over the last six months as the die-hard jihadists have battled to defend their dwindling bastions.
An estimated 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the area around the town of Hajin, the UN said.
The Us-led coalition on Saturday fired over 20 missiles against jihadist positions, the Observatory said.
The monitor said some 300 SDF combattants had deployed near the village of Sousa in preparations for a final assault.
The fight to eliminate the remaining pockets of Daesh has been shaken by President Donald Trump’s shock December announcement that he is withdrawing US troops from Syria.
A Syrian boy and girl wash their boots and shoes from a cistern at a camp for the displaced near the village of Shamarin, near the border with Turkey in the northern Aleppo province, on Saturday.
A Syrian soldier waves as he stands atop a tank deployed at a position in the village of Qart Saghir northwest of the northern town of Manbij, near the frontline with forces from the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield alliance, on Saturday.