U.S.-backed fighters launch final push to beat ISIS in Syria
BEIRUT — U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces said Saturday they have launched a final push to defeat the Islamic State group in the last tiny pocket the extremists hold in eastern Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted that the offensive began Saturday after more than 20,000 civilians were evacuated from Islamic State-held area in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. An SDF statement said the offensive was focused on the village of Baghouz.
The SDF, backed by U.S. air power, has driven the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from large swaths of territory it once controlled in northern and eastern Syria, confining the extremists to a small pocket of land near the border with Iraq.
Scores of ISIS fighters are besieged in two villages, or less than once percent of the self-styled caliphate that once sprawled across large parts of Syria and Iraq. In recent weeks, thousands of civilians, including families of ISIS fighters, left the area controlled by the extremists.
“The battle is very fierce,” Bali said. “Those remaining inside are the most experienced who are defending their last stronghold. According to this you can imagine the ferocity and size of the fighting.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said SDF fighters are advancing “cautiously” due to mines planted by ISIS gunmen. It said U.S.-led coalition warplanes are giving cover to SDF fighters.
President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that ISIS will have lost all of its territory by this week.
2020 campaign: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., makes her bid for president official Saturday in the working-class city of Lawrence, Mass., grounding her 2020 campaign in a populist call to fight economic inequality and build “an America that works for everyone.”