SDF will attack IS Syria enclave once civilians out


Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the United States, began their last attack on territory held by the so-called Islamic State on Saturday night.

US officials have said in recent weeks that Isis has lost 99.5% of its territory and is holding on to fewer than 5 square kilometres in Syria, or less than 2 square miles, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) "caliphate" has shrunk to less than 1 per cent of its original size, the US-led coalition has said, as a final onslaught in eastern Syria loomed.

After a pause of more than a week to allow civilians to flee, the SDF said Saturday it had resumed the fight to seize the last four-square-kilometre (one-square-mile) patch from the militants.

In December 2017, Iraq officially declared the end of the war against Daesh*, and one year later US President Donald Trump announced that American troops had managed to defeat the terrorist organisation, noting that its remnants could be cleared out by regional forces.

A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told the AP news agency "the most experienced" jihadists are defending their last stronghold.

"There is of course a safe corridor and civilians are coming out daily, and this reduces their number in Baghouz until we can be sure the town is free of civilians".

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Bali said there could be up to 600 IS fighters still inside the pocket, a lot of them foreigners.

Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria prepared on Friday for a push on the last remaining speck of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) group's "caliphate".

The SDF said it has not been in communication or agreed the ceasefire with IS.

"The territorial caliphate, which has not yet been wiped out, is being defeated", minister Florence Parly said in Baghdad.

The Kurdish-Arab militia - backed by USA air strikes - have now resumed the fight to take the last four-square-kilometre (one-square-mile) patch of territory in eastern Syria's Deir az-Zour from IS.

An SDF statement said the offensive was focused on the village of Baghouz. But it is not the end for hundreds of Isis fighters surrounded in eastern Syria, or the thousands who have already escaped.

The U.S. military presence in Syria has offered the Kurds a measure of protection against any Turkish offensive.