At least 45 Daesh fighters have been killed around their last enclave in Syria despite a pause in a two-month Kurdish-led assault, a monitor said on Wednesday.
A Kurdish-led alliance backed by Washington announced the pause in its offensive in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor last week in protest against Turkish shelling of Kurdish areas along the northern border.
But waves of US-led airstrikes since Monday have killed 28 militants, including during an abortive Daesh assault on Tuesday on an oilfield north of the enclave, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) killed another 17 Daesh fighters while defending their base in the village of Al-Bahra just outside Daesh-held territory on Monday, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
Alliance spokesman Kino Gabriel had stressed that the pause in offensive operations did not mean SDF fighters would not defend themselves. The SDF launched its offensive against the Daesh enclave around the Euphrates Valley town of Hajin on Sept. 10.
But after making slow progress, they suffered a major setback last month when Daesh took advantage of sandstorms to launch a series of counter-attacks.
By the end of the month, they were back at square one with all of the territories they had won recaptured by the militants.
The Hajin enclave is the last significant remnant of the “caliphate” Daesh proclaimed in 2014 across a vast swathe of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
The rest has all been lost to offensives by multiple alliances on both sides of the border.
Outside the Hajin enclave, the group’s operations are confined to sleeper cells and to hideouts in unpopulated desert and mountain areas.