Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

Heavy Clashes Reported In 'Final Battle' Against IS In Syria

Heavy Clashes Reported In 'Final Battle' Against IS In Syria

The U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces on Saturday launched a final push to clear the area from ISIS under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S. -backed coalition.

IS said in a statement posted late Sunday that two of its "martyrdom-seekers" attacked SDF fighters in Baghouz with their explosive-laden auto.

"I suggested to my U.S. counterpart, Mike Pompeo, the idea of establishing a joint task force to coordinate the USA withdrawal from Syria, and he agreed to my proposal", said the minister.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said the alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters had pressed forward in the face of tough obstacles.

"If we can, in a short time frame, get the (remaining) civilians out or isolate them, I believe that the coming few days will witness the military end of the terrorist organisation in this area", Bali said.

But landmines, IS snipers, and tunnels the extremists have dug out for their defence are hindering the advance, he said.

The SDF, spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has driven Islamic State out of a swathe of territory in northern and eastern Syria over the last four years.

US-backed forces have screened the new arrivals, weeding out potential jihadists for questioning.

An SDF field commander told AFP news agency on Sunday morning: "There are heavy clashes at the moment".

Coalition forces stood over about 20 men who were crouching on the ground.

Before the assault began, civilians fled the town.

Islamic State (IS) group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi overcame an attempted coup in a two-day battle with his foreign bodyguards, who were then rounded up and executed, witnesses told the Guardian.

"There are fears over the lives of thousands of civilians who are stranded in the pocket", said Mr Abdel-Rahman.

He said: "They are in a pocket now which is a couple of miles by a couple of miles".

At the height of its rule, IS controlled territory the size of Britain.

But separate military offensives in both countries, including by the SDF, have since retaken the vast bulk of the cross-border "caliphate" they declared in 2014.

Despite its caliphate being on the brink of collapse, IS still retains a presence in Syria's vast Badia desert and has carried out deadly attacks in SDF-held territory.

Trump is moving ahead with his plan to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria, despite warnings from USA military and security experts that militants in Iraq and Syria could prepare an insurgency if USA -led forces back off.

What's hanging the balance, and of concern for USA officials, is the unresolved fate of the Kurds who are now looking down the barrels of the Turkish army and the head-chopping knives of their jihadi "rebel" allies on the ground, poised to invade formerly US-occupied space in Syria.

But in December Washington announced it would pull out all its troops from Syria, sending Kurdish authorities scrambling to mend fences with the regime in Damascus. They could quickly rebound if the military victory is not accompanied by solutions to the grievances that contributed to their rise, the officials say.

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