US-backed fighters launch final push to defeat Daesh in Syria

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather in the front line village of Baghouz in the countryside of the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province, on the border with Iraq, on February 2, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2019

US-backed fighters launch final push to defeat Daesh in Syria

  • US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces began an assault against Daesh's last enclave in eastern Syria 
  • The United States said on Jan. 29 that Daesh was expected to lose the final chunk of territory within a couple of weeks

BEIRUT: US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces said Saturday they have launched a final push to defeat Daesh in the last tiny pocket the extremists hold in eastern Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted that the offensive began Saturday after more than 20,000 civilians were evacuated from the Daesh-held area in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. An SDF statement said the offensive was focused on the village of Baghouz.
The SDF, backed by US air power, has driven Daesh from large swaths of territory it once controlled in northern and eastern Syria, confining the extremists to a small pocket of land near the border with Iraq.
Scores of Daesh fighters are now besieged in a small area consisting of two villages, or less than once percent of the self-styled caliphate that once sprawled across large parts of Syria and Iraq. In recent weeks, thousands of civilians, including families of Daesh fighters, left the area controlled by the extremists.
“The decisive battle began tonight to finish what remains of Daesh terrorists,” Bali said.
US President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that Daesh will have lost all of its territory by next week.


“It should be formally announced sometime, probably next week, that we will have 100 percent of the caliphate,” Trump told representatives of a 79-member, US-led coalition fighting Daesh.
US officials have said in recent weeks that Daesh has lost 99.5 percent of its territory and is holding on to fewer than 5 square kilometers in Syria, or less than 2 square miles, in the villages of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that since the SDF began its offensive against Daesh in the area on Sept. 10, some 1,279 Daesh gunmen and 678 SDF fighters have been killed. It said 401 civilians, including 144 children and teenagers, have been killed since then.
Earlier Saturday, Daesh militants attacked SDF fighters near an oil field in the country’s east, triggering airstrikes by the US-led coalition.
The Observatory said 12 Daesh gunmen attacked the SDF and clashed with them for several hours until most of the attackers were killed early Saturday. It said 10 attackers were killed, while two managed to flee.
Other activist collectives, including the Step news agency, reported the attack, saying some of the attackers used motorcycles rigged with explosives.
The fighting was concentrated near Al-Omar field, Syria’s largest.


Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

Updated 23 August 2019

Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

  • Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects
  • Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years

JERUSALEM: A rare homemade bomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed an Israeli teen and seriously wounded her father and brother Friday as they visited a spring near a Jewish settlement, officials said.
Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects.
Israeli medics had earlier reported that a 17-year-old had been critically wounded in the attack and officials later announced her death, naming her as Rina Shnerb from the central Israeli city of Lod.
Medics from the Magen David Adom rescue service initially gave the ages of the two wounded as 46 and 20, before amending to 21 in the latter case.
The army said the three victims were a father and his two children.
The two wounded were taken by helicopter to hospital, the army said.
“Three civilians who were in a nearby spring were injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “harsh terrorist attack” and sent condolences to the family, while pledging to continue building settlements.
“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” he said in a statement.
“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the “shocking, heinous” attack, saying there was nothing heroic in Shnerb’s “murder,” calling it a “despicable, cowardly act.”
“Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
Israeli forces meanwhile entered the Palestinian village of Beitunia, south of the spring, to take footage from surveillance cameras.
An AFP reporter said Palestinians clashed there with Israeli soldiers, but no casualties were reported.
Chief of the army, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the site of the attack to understand the incident and oversee the efforts to locate the perpetrators, which he was “confident” would happen quickly, the military said.
Later in the day, Shnerb was buried in her hometown Lod, with thousands participating in the funeral.
Shnerb’s father Eitan, who was wounded and couldn’t attend the funeral, relayed through an uncle his request that people focus on “our strength and love and the wonderful nation and our good land” and avoid sinking into “weakness and anger and strife.”
“We should be worthy of the great sacrifice we offered today,” Eitan Shnerb was cited by the uncle as saying.
In a speech on Friday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
He referred to a recent clash between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and sought to draw a link between the two incidents.
AFP reporters said thousands of Gazans participated in weekly Friday protests at the Israeli border fence, with some youths using slingshots to launch stones at the barrier and a few approaching it.
The health ministry in the enclave said over 122 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, dozens of them hit by live fire.
Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years.
Palestinian attacks have mostly involved guns, knives and car ramming.
There have been concerns about a possible increase in violence in the run up to Israel’s September 17 general election.
A week ago, a Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, wounding two Israelis before being shot dead.
On August 8, an off-duty Israeli soldier’s body was found with multiple stab wounds. Two Palestinian suspects were later arrested.
Late Thursday, a Palestinian threw grenades at Israeli soldiers while attempting to cross the Gaza border and was shot by Israeli forces, leaving him wounded, the army and the Gaza health ministry said.
Gaza militants have also launched six missiles at Israel in the past week; the most recent were on Wednesday.
In retaliation, the Israeli army said it struck “a number of military targets in a Hamas naval facility in the northern Gaza Strip.”