CAIRO – Kurdish-led militias announced on Sunday they had gained territory and advanced in the battle to seize the last stronghold the Islamic State terror organization holds in eastern Syria, a human rights monitor based in the United Kingdom said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Syrian Democratic Forces, a United States-backed Kurdish-Arab coalition dominated by fighters from the Kurdish YPG militia, managed to advance in unpopulated and rural areas of the last territory held by IS in the province of Deir ez-Zor.
The SDF strengthened its siege, forcing IS fighters to flee to populated areas that remain under its control, according to the NGO.
The United States-led international coalition, which provides air support to SDF, had its aircrafts overflying the areas held by IS fighters, some of whom have employed civilians as human shields to avoid airstrikes.
The observatory added that hundreds of families were still stuck in the territory held by the IS and were unable to flee to the areas seized by SDF, where 20,000 people have been evacuated by the militia over the last 10 days.
SDF announced on Saturday the beginning of an offensive to liberate the last territory from IS fighters.
“The Syrian Democratic Forces launched the last battle to crack down on the terrorist organization (ISIS) in the village of al-Baguz,” the Kurdish militia said in a statement.
Just hours before the announcement, SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali told EFE that IS was clinging on to two towns – al-Baguz and Fuqani – in the province of Deir ez-Zor, which is located on the Euphrates near the border with Iraq.
At the height of the group’s power in late 2014 and early 2015, IS controlled vast swathes of territory that stretched from the outskirts of Baghdad to central Syria, including the major cities of Mosul and Raqqa.
On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump said that by next week he may be able to formally confirm that the terror organization has lost all the territory it once controlled.
Since September, the SDF has been carrying out an offensive to seize control over the last stronghold of IS in Syria with the help of airstrikes by the international coalition.