Us-backed forces make fi­nal push against IS

DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition - - FRONT PAGE - —AFP

Da­m­as­cus: Us-backed forces were locked in fierce fight­ing Sun­day as they pressed the bat­tle against the last shred of the Is­lamic State group’s “caliphate” in east­ern Syria.

The ji­hadists over­ran large parts of the coun­try and neigh­bour­ing Iraq in 2014, but var­i­ous mil­i­tary of­fen­sives have since re­duced that ter­ri­tory to a patch on the Iraqi bor­der.

The Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF), sup­ported by a Us-led coali­tion, an­nounced a fi­nal push to re­take the ji­hadist pocket late Satur­day, af­ter a pause of more than a week to al­low civil­ians to flee. An SDF field com­man­der said his fight­ers were bat­tling their way for­wards on Sun­day morn­ing. “There are heavy clashes at the mo­ment. We have launched an as­sault and the fight­ers are ad­vanc­ing,” he said. The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights mon­i­tor group said coali­tion planes and ar­tillery bom­barded ji­hadist po­si­tions.

“The bat­tle is on­go­ing. There were heavy clashes this morn­ing, with land­mines go­ing off,” said Rami Ab­del Rah­man, the head of the Bri­tain­based Ob­ser­va­tory. The SDF launched an of­fen­sive to ex­pel IS from the oil-rich east­ern province of Deir Ez­zor in Septem­ber. The Kur­dish-led al­liance has since whit­tled down ji­hadist-held ter­ri­tory to a scrap of just 4 square kilo­me­tres be­tween the Euphrates and the Iraqi bor­der.

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