US-backed forces storm Daesh-held village in east Syria

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are pictured in the village of Susah in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, near the Syrian border with Iraq on September 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018
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US-backed forces storm Daesh-held village in east Syria

  • The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said its fighters stormed Bagouz and are close to the center of the village.
  • The forces have been among the most effective in the fight against Daesh in Syria.

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian forces entered Saturday an eastern village held by Daesh where intense clashes are ongoing a day after the extremists reportedly killed 20 fighters, the forces and a war monitor said.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said its fighters stormed Bagouz and are close to the center of the village. The forces added that they plan to open another front in the Sousseh area along the Euphrates river to increase pressure on the extremists.
SDF launched with the help of the US-led coalition a wide offensive this week to capture the last pocket held by Daesh in Syria. The Kurdish-led forces have been among the most effective in the fight against Daesh in Syria, forcing them out of much of the country’s east.
Despite losing most of the territory it held between Iraq and Syria since its peak in 2014, the extremist group remains a disruptive force in both countries. Its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, urged his followers to “persevere” in an audio tape attributed to him last month.
The Daesh-linked Aamaq news agency said the group’s gunmen targeted advancing SDF fighters in the Bagouz area with mortar rounds, roadside bombs and sniper fire inflicting many casualties among them.
The SDF commander of the operation in Bagouz, who identified himself as Shergo, said in a video statement that the fighting is intense from both sides and that his fighters now control almost half of the village.
“We will take all this place from ISIS,” Shergo said in English.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Daesh fighters are relying on a network of tunnels in the area and land mines to slow down SDF’s offensive. It said that some 100 women and 30 men, including Daesh fighters, along with their children, surrendered to SDF fighters. The Daesh gunmen were taken to a tightly secured position in the area, it added.
The storming of Bagouz came a day after the Observatory and a Kurdish official said Daesh gunmen killed 20 SDF fighters in the country’s east.
The Observatory said the extremists took advantage of a sand storm to launch a counterattack, which killed 20 fighters and wounded others.
Kurdish official Ebrahim Ebrahim said the 20 fighters were killed in an ambush by Daesh fighters.
SDF said in a statement that only two of its fighters were killed and six others wounded in Friday’s clashes.
The Observatory said Saturday that since SDF launched its offensive on the Daesh-held pocket, including the town of Hajjin, 53 extremists have been killed as well as 38 US-backed fighters.
The Observatory said SDF brought in Friday some 1,000 fighters to fortify its positions and boost the forces carrying out the offensive.


Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

Updated 1 min 21 sec ago
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Yemen govt, Houthis to start first phase of Hodeidah pullout

  • The UN statement said both sides ‘made important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces as envisaged in the Hodeidah agreement.’
  • Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil.

NEW YORK: Yemen’s government and the Houthi militias have agreed on the first stage of a mutual pullout of forces from the port city of Hodeidah, a key entry point for humanitarian aid, the United Nations said.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement and the government agreed in talks in December to withdraw troops by Jan. 7 from Hodeidah under a truce accord aimed at averting a full-scale assault on the port and paving the way for negotiations to end the four-year-old war.

“The parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” the UN spokesman’s office said in a statement without giving details on what was agreed.

Under Phase 1, the Houthis would withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, used for grains, and Ras Isa, used for oil. This would be met by a retreat of Saudi-led coalition forces from the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah, where battles raged before a cease-fire went into effect on Dec. 18.

The Houthis occupy Hodeidah, the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial and aid imports, while Yemeni government forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi are massed on the outskirts.

The UN statement said the two sides also agreed “in principle” on Phase 2, entailing full redeployment of both parties’ forces in Hodeidah province.

Two sources involved in the negotiations said both sides had yet to agree on a withdrawal timeline or on a mechanism for local forces to take over security at the ports and city.

“The UN is still discussing how to reduce the gap between the two sides on how to choose the forces that will control the city,” one source told Reuters.

The parties could decide within 7-10 days on where they would reposition forces, said the other source, adding that Houthi fighters could pull back as far as 20 km from the port.

Disagreement on withdrawal had delayed opening humanitarian corridors in Yemen.

Under the first phase, the two sides agreed to reopen main roads linking Hodeidah to the Houthi-occupied capital Sanaa and in Yemen’s third city of Taiz, said a UN source.

They also agreed to enable access to Red Sea Mills, which holds some 50,000 tons of World Food Program grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month, the source said. Access to the site has been cut off since September due to fighting.

The Hodeidah truce has largely been respected but there have been intermittent skirmishes in flashpoints on the city’s edges.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the coalition twice launched an offensive to seize the port and weaken the Houthis by cutting of their main supply line.