Daesh left clinging to scraps in Syria and Iraq

Iraqi forces vehicles are seen after they captured Rawa town, the last remaining town under Daesh control in Iraq on Friday, November 17, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 November 2017
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Daesh left clinging to scraps in Syria and Iraq

BEIRUT: The Iraqi Army on Friday retook the last town in the country still held by Daesh, driving another nail into the coffin of the terrorists’ dreams of statehood.
Daesh has lost 95 percent of the cross-border “caliphate” it declared in Iraq and Syria in 2014, according to the US-led coalition fighting the militants.
The group is now clinging on to just a few small pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria, a far cry from the vast stretches it controlled after rampaging across the region.
Here are the remaining Daesh holdouts:
After the loss of the small Euphrates valley town of Rawa in a lightning offensive launched by Iraqi forces at dawn Friday, scraps of desert are all that remain under Daesh control in the country.
Baghdad’s forces are waging a final push along their side of the frontier with Syria to wipe out the last remnants of Daesh territory.
The operation is the last leg of a punishing campaign that saw Iraq reclaim its second city of Mosul in July after ferocious urban combat.
The border area of Iraq’s Anbar province is dominated by a handful of powerful Sunni tribes, some of which have dispatched fighters to battle Daesh alongside government forces.
The region has been known as a hotbed of insurgency and smuggling since the US-led invasion of Iraq ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003, long before the arrival of Daesh in 2014.
Syrian regime forces are battling to capture the border town of Albu Kamal, after Daesh launched a surprise counterattack last week and snatched back its final urban holdout.
Beyond the town, Daesh controls some two dozen desert villages along the Euphrates river in the surrounding oil-rich Deir Ezzor province that once provided a major source of the group’s illicit income.
The terrorists are confronted there both by Syrian regime forces backed up by Russian air power and a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters supported by a US-led coalition.
Away from the barren frontier region, Daesh retains a presence in the Yarmuk refugee camp and the Hajjar Aswad district just south of the capital Damascus, where the group is battling other terrorists and pro-regime forces.
In the central region of Homs, Daesh is being squeezed by troops loyal to President Bashar Assad and their Russian backers as it struggles to maintain its grip on a few small areas.
To the south in Daraa province on the border with Jordan an affiliated group called Jaish Khaled Bin Walid is mainly battling rebel groups.
Meanwhile, shelling by the Syrian regime on the opposition-held area of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus Friday killed at least 10 civilians, among them six children, a monitor said.
The deaths were the result of the latest bout in an escalating cycle of tit-for-tat attacks between regime forces and the opposition fighters holding the enclave on the Syrian capital’s eastern outskirts.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a total of 43 civilians have been killed in the process, most of them in Eastern Ghouta, which has been besieged since 2013 and where humanitarian conditions are dire.
Seven people, including five children, were killed in regime shelling and airstrikes in Douma, the main town in the Eastern Ghouta area, observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Elsewhere in Eastern Ghouta, another child was killed in Harasta, he said, adding that two members of the White Helmets rescue organization were also among Friday’s victims.
On Tuesday, the Ahrar Al-Sham group, which has positions in Harasta, launched an attack on a regime military base in the area, which is supposed to be a so-called “de-escalation zone” as part of a deal agreed between Russia, Iran and Turkey to bring violence levels down.
The fighting on that front has left at least 37 dead on the regime side, according to the observatory, a toll the regime has not confirmed. Abdel Rahman said “dozens” of hard-line fighters were also killed.
In retaliation for the latest deadly Ghouta shelling, opposition fighters fired rockets on Damascus, killing three civilians Friday, the same source said. Six had been killed the previous day, including Syria’s national karate coach Fadel Fadi, who died of his wounds after being struck by shrapnel as he left his Damascus sports club, the state-run Sana agency said.


Iraq carries out more air strikes against Daesh in Syria

Updated 58 min 4 sec ago
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Iraq carries out more air strikes against Daesh in Syria

  • At least 65 senior Daesh leaders live in Hajjin.
  • Hajjin is in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, about 50 kilometers (just over 30 miles) from Iraq’s border.

BAGHDAD: Iraq announced Friday it had carried out air strikes against Daesh in Syria, the third cross border aerial operation inside a month in its war-torn neighbor.
“Iraqi F-16 planes carried out (Thursday) morning raids against the headquarters of Daesh terrorist gang leaders and an explosives depot occupied by terrorists in Syria’s Hajjin region,” a statement by Iraq’s operations command said.
A video released with the text shows a strike on a huge building surrounded by palm trees and a wall.
The images show the wall and the building collapsing simultaneously.
Several strikes have been carried out by Iraq or the international coalition since Thursday against the center of Hajjin, the last major area held by Daesh in Syria, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.
At least 65 senior Daesh leaders live in Hajjin, the Observatory’s director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Hajjin is in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, about 50 kilometers (just over 30 miles) from Iraq’s border.
It has been surrounded since the end of 2017 by the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters backed by the United States and France, Abdel Rahman said.
Several hundred prisoners are still held by the militants in Hajjin, he added.
Since April, Iraq’s air force has carried out several air strikes on Daesh held Syrian territory close to the border between the two countries.
Daesh seized a third of Iraq in 2014, before the government declared victory in December, but the military has continued regular operations along the porous Syrian border.