Truckloads of civilians leave Daesh enclave in Syria

A picture taken on February 20, 2019 shows a truck carrying men, identified as Daesh group fighters who surrendered to Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2019
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Truckloads of civilians leave Daesh enclave in Syria

  • The village is all that remains for Daesh in the Euphrates valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria
  • The SDF has steadily driven the militants down the Euphrates after capturing their Syrian capital

NEAR BAGHOU: Trucks loaded with civilians left the last Daesh enclave in eastern Syria on Friday, as US-backed forces waited to inflict final defeat on the surrounded militants.
Reporters near the front line at Baghouz saw dozens of trucks driving out with civilians inside them, but it was not clear if more remained in the tiny pocket.
The village is all that remains for Daesh in the Euphrates valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria after it lost the major cities of Mosul and Raqqa in 2017.
The SDF has steadily driven the militants down the Euphrates after capturing their Syrian capital, Raqqa, in 2017, but does not want to mount a final attack until all civilians are out.
The US-led coalition which supports the SDF has said Islamic State’s “most hardened fighters” remain holed up in Baghouz, close to the Iraqi frontier.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF’s media office, earlier told Reuters that more than 3,000 civilians were estimated to still be inside Baghouz and there would be an attempt to evacuate them on Friday.
“If we succeed in evacuating all the civilians, at any moment we will take the decision to storm Baghouz or force the terrorists to surrender,” he said.
Though the fall of Baghouz marks a milestone in the campaign against Islamic State and the wider conflict in Syria, the militant group is still seen as a major security threat.
It has steadily turned to guerrilla warfare and still holds territory in a remote, sparsely populated area west of the Euphrates River — a part of Syria otherwise controlled by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies.
The United States will leave “a small peacekeeping group” of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a US pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.
Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 troops, saying they had defeated Daesh militants in Syria.

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Rocket hits house north of Tel Aviv, Israelis wounded: police, medics

Updated 2 min 22 sec ago
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Rocket hits house north of Tel Aviv, Israelis wounded: police, medics

  • Palestinian rockets rarely reach an area at that distance from Gaza
  • Relations between the two states may flare up again after the incident

MISHMERET, Israel: A rocket hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire on Monday, wounding five Israelis, police and medics said.
Israel’s army had earlier reported a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel but a spokeswoman could not comment further for now.
The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.
Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.
It would be sure to draw an Israeli response, risking another escalation between the two sides after mounting tensions in recent weeks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently in Washington, where he is due to meet US President Donald Trump later Monday.
The rocket fire comes at a highly sensitive time for Israel, which holds elections on April 9.