SDF breaks into Daesh hold­out in eastern Syria

Com­man­der ac­cuses ex­trem­ists of us­ing hu­man shields in bat­tle for Ha­jin

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

BEIRUT: U.S.-backed Syr­ian fighters have bro­ken into an eastern hold­out of Daesh (ISIS) on the Iraqi bor­der, a com­man­der and ac­tivists said Thurs­day, months into an antiex­trem­ist of­fen­sive.

A Kur­dish-led al­liance, backed by airstrikes of the U.S.-led coali­tion, has been bat­tling to oust Daesh from the pocket in the eastern prov­ince of Deir al-Zor since Septem­ber.

But the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces suf­fered a se­ries of set­backs, in­clud­ing a vi­cious fight­back by mil­i­tants and bad weather, im­ped­ing vis­i­bil­ity.

An SDF com­man­der said Thurs­day that the al­liance had man­aged to break into the pocket and wrest part of its main town from Daesh.

“Heavy clashes are on­go­ing in­side the town of Ha­jin, after our forces ad­vanced in­side and started to con­trol some of its neigh­bor­hoods,” Re­dur Khalil told AFP.

The SDF opened up hu­man­i­tar­ian cor­ri­dors out of the be­lea­guered pocket, al­low­ing more than 1,000 civil­ians – mostly woman and chil­dren – to flee from Ha­jin in the past few days.

Khalil ac­cused Daesh of us­ing civil­ians as hu­man shields, and said the cor­ri­dors would re­main open.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said the SDF launched an at­tack Tues­day and more than dozens of fam­i­lies had man­aged to flee.

The at­tack was backed by the heav­i­est shelling and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coali­tion since the start of the of­fen­sive on the Ha­jin pocket on Sept. 10, ob­ser­va­tory chief Rami Ab­del-Rah­man said.

Since Tues­day, 34 mil­i­tants in­clud­ing three sui­cide bombers and 17 SDF fighters have been re­port­edly killed in the fight­ing, the ob­ser­va­tory said.

In al­most three months of bat­tle, more than 820 mil­i­tants and more than 480 U.S.-backed fighters have been killed, the ac­tivist group says.

More than 300 civil­ians have been killed in that pe­riod, it says, though the coali­tion has re­peat­edly de­clared that it did not tar­get any non­com­bat­ants.

Daesh over­ran large parts of Syria and neigh­bor­ing Iraq in 2014, declar­ing a “caliphate” across ter­ri­to­ries it con­trolled.

But var­i­ous of­fen­sives in both coun­tries have routed the ex­trem­ists from most of that land, crush­ing their dreams of state­hood.

In Syria, the mil­i­tants re­tain a pres­ence in the vast Ba­dia desert that stretches to the Iraqi bor­der, as well as the pocket un­der at­tack around Ha­jin.

“The lib­er­a­tion of Ha­jin will not sig­nify the end of Daesh,” Khalil said, warn­ing it would re­tain sleeper cells. “Op­er­a­tions to ex­pel them will still last a long time.” –

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.