US-backed SDF says assault on Daesh enclave is as good as over

The SDF are attacking Daesh militants in their last enclave in Baghouz. (AFP/File)
Updated 12 March 2019
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US-backed SDF says assault on Daesh enclave is as good as over

  • SDF head of media office announced the deaths on Twitter
  • SDF decreased their attacks earlier because Daesh used civilians as human shields

BAGHOUZ: Daesh was close to defeat in its final enclave on Tuesday after ferocious bombardments overnight and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said the offensive to capture the area was nearly over.
The beseiged enclave of Baghouz is the last shred of territory held by the extremists who have been driven from roughly one third of Iraq and Syria over the past four years by its enemies, including a US-led international coalition.
“The operation is over, or as good as over, but requires a little more time to be completed practically on the ground,” SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel told Al-Hadath TV. Daesh was still putting up resistance with weapons including car bombs.
The Baghouz enclave was targeted with barrages of rockets overnight and fires raged inside, but the bombardments ceased on Tuesday morning.
The SDF has been laying siege to Baghouz for weeks but repeatedly postponed its final assault to allow the evacuation of thousands of civilians, many of them wives and children of Daesh fighters. It finally resumed the attack on Sunday, backed by coalition air strikes.
Gabriel said 25 Daesh fighters had been confirmed killed so far in clashes, in addition to an unknown number of militants killed by air strikes. Another SDF official earlier said 38 extremists had been confirmed killed.

The SDF, which is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has been advancing slowly into Baghouz to minimize its losses from sniper fire and land mines.
Three SDF fighters have been killed, Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, said on Twitter.
Daesh’s defenses include extensive tunnels and Daesh’s most hardened foreign fighters are holed up inside the enclave, the SDF has said.
However the United States does not believe any senior Daesh leaders are in Baghouz, assessing they have gone elsewhere as part of the group’s shift toward guerrilla tactics, a US defense official has said.
The group still operates in remote territory elsewhere and it is widely assessed that it will continue to represent a potent security threat.
The bulk of the people evacuated from the diminishing Daesh territory have been transported to a camp for internally displaced people in Al-Hol, in northeastern Syria, where the United Nations says conditions are dire.
The camp, designed to accommodate 20,000 people, is now sheltering more than 66,000, the UN said.
The World Health Organization on Tuesday said 106 people, mainly infants, have died on the journey to Al-Hol, which takes at least six hours, since December.
Obdurate support voiced by many evacuees for Daesh, particularly among foreigners, has posed a complex security, legal and moral challenge.
Those issues were underscored on Friday with the death of the newborn son of Shamima Begum, a British woman who left to join Daesh when she was a schoolgirl.


Turkey sends weapons to opposition fighters in Syria

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters get a major boost as Ankara backs them with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them hold their ground. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2019
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Turkey sends weapons to opposition fighters in Syria

  • Ankara signals readiness to preserve its influence in Syria’s Idlib province in northwestern region

AMMAN: Turkey has equipped an array of mainstream Syrian opposition fighters it backs with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them try to repel a major Russian-backed assault, senior opposition officials and opposition sources said on Saturday.
Russia is backing the Syrian army’s large aerial and ground assault as it seeks to gain control of the last big stretch of opposition-held territory in the northwest of the country.
Syria’s Bashar Assad launched the assault last month, saying fighters had breached an existing cease-fire, triggering a civilian exodus by bombarding Idlib and adjacent areas. It has been the biggest escalation since last summer between Assad and the opposition fighters in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.
Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after failing to persuade Russia in recent meetings of a joint working group that it should end its escalation to avert a major influx of refugees pouring into Turkey, two senior opposition figures said.

FASTFACT

Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after failing to persuade Russia in recent meetings of a joint working group that it should end its escalation to avert a major influx of refugees pouring into Turkey.

In doing so Turkey signaled its readiness to preserve its influence in northwestern Syria, where it has beefed up its troop presence in a dozen military bases that were set up under a de-escalation deal with Russia, a senior opposition commander said. Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.
Overnight, a Turkish military convoy arrived in a base in northern Hama near opposition-held Jabal Al-Zawiya, where Russian and Syrian jets have been pounding for weeks, a fighter and a witness said.
The delivery of dozens of armored vehicles, Grad rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles helped roll back some army gains and retake the strategically located town of Kfar Nabouda.