US-backed forces take positions in last Daesh enclave

Smoke rises from the last besieged Daesh enclave in Baghouz, Syria where Syrian Democratic Forces have taken positions. (Reuters)
Updated 18 March 2019
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US-backed forces take positions in last Daesh enclave

  • Smoke rose over the tiny Baghouz enclave as warplanes and artillery bombarded it
  • Daesh fighters inside Baghouz are among the group’s most hardened foreign fighters

BAGHOUZ, Syria: US-backed fighters said they had taken positions in Daesh’s last enclave in eastern Syria and air strikes pounded the tiny patch of land beside the Euphrates River early on Monday, a Reuters journalist said.
Smoke rose over the tiny enclave as warplanes and artillery bombarded it. Another witness said the militants had earlier mounted a counter attack.
“Several positions captured and an ammunition storage has been blown up,” said Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, on Twitter late on Sunday.
The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind during a lull in fighting as people walked among them.
Backed by air power and special forces from a US-led coalition, the SDF has pushed Daesh from almost the entire northeastern corner of Syria, defeating it in Raqqa in 2017 and driving it to its last enclave at Baghouz last year.
But while its defeat at Baghouz will end its control of populated land in the third of Syria and Iraq that it captured in 2014, the group will remain a threat, regional and Western officials say.
The SDF has waged a staggered assault on the enclave, pausing for long periods over recent weeks to allow surrendering fighters, their families and other civilians to pour out.
Since Jan. 9, more than 60,000 people have left the enclave, about half of them surrendering Daesh supporters including some 5,000 fighters, the SDF said on Sunday.
People leaving the area have spoken of harsh conditions inside, under coalition bombardment and with supplies of food so scarce some resorted to eating grass.
Last month, the SDF said it had found a mass grave in an area it captured.
Still, many of those who left Baghouz have vowed their allegiance to the militant group, which last week put out a propaganda film from inside the enclave calling on its supporters to keep faith.
Suicide attacks on Friday targeted families of Daesh fighters attempting to leave the enclave and surrender, killing six people, the SDF said.
Late on Sunday, the Kurdish Ronahi TV station aired footage showing a renewed assault on the enclave, with fires seen to be raging inside and tracer fire and rockets zooming into the tiny area.
The SDF and the coalition say the Daesh fighters inside Baghouz are among the group’s most hardened foreign fighters, though Western countries believe its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, has left the area.


Tripoli neighborhoods ‘turning into battlefields’: Red Cross

Updated 25 April 2019
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Tripoli neighborhoods ‘turning into battlefields’: Red Cross

  • Hospitals are struggling from chronic shortages of medical supplies
  • There have also been power outages and weakened water pumping stations

GENEVA/TRIPOLI: The humanitarian situation has greatly deteriorated around the Libyan capital Tripoli, where “densely populated residential areas are gradually turning into battlefields,” the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.
Hospitals are struggling with chronic shortages of medical supplies amid power outages and weakened water pumping stations, the aid agency said in a statement after three weeks of clashes.
“It is crucial that hospitals, medical facilities, health staff and vehicles transporting the wounded are allowed to carry out their activities safely,” it said.
The World Health Organization said on Twitter that 278 people have been killed in the last three weeks, while 1,332 others have been wounded.
The Libyan National Army, which is allied to a rival government in eastern Libya, has mounted an offensive on Tripoli but has so far failed to breach the city’s southern defenses.
Southern suburbs and nearby villages have been heavily fought over and shelled, with territory regularly changing hands.