Scores of civilians, fighters depart Daesh stronghold in Syria

People who fled battles between Syrian Democratic Forces and Daesh fighters arrive in the Syrian village of Baghuz. (AFP)
Updated 28 January 2019

Scores of civilians, fighters depart Daesh stronghold in Syria

  • Terrorist group ‘confined to a four-square-kilometer pocket of territory’
  • The SDF is a Kurdish-led force that also includes Arab fighters from the region

SOUSA: Syrian opposition activists said on Monday scores of civilians and fighters have evacuated the Daesh’s last major stronghold in Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 2,000 people, including 300 Daesh gunmen, have left the area in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor since Sunday.

The DeirEzzor 24, an activist collective, reported on Monday that dozens of civilians had left the area, which US-backed Syrian fighters have been trying to take since September.

It said that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led group, captured a local Daesh commander and his bodyguard.

Meanwhile, a senior Kurdish commander said the Daesh’s once-sprawling “caliphate” has been reduced to a four-square-kilometer pocket of territory.

With support from a US-led military coalition, the SDF are in the final stages of an assault launched more than four months ago against the militants’ last bastion.

A dwindling number of Daesh fighters, led mostly by Iraqi commanders, are now defending only a handful of hamlets in the Euphrates Valley, SDF commander Heval Roni said.

“Geographically speaking, there are only 4 square kilometers left under Daesh control, stretching from Baghouz to the Iraqi border,” he told AFP in the Baghouz area.

“There are some high-ranking Daesh leaders among them ... but we don’t know who exactly,” said Roni, who heads SDF operations in the area.

The SDF is a Kurdish-led force that also includes Arab fighters from the region and which has spearheaded the fight against Daesh in Syria since it was formed in 2015.

The commander said he had no information about Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is believed to still be alive and is the world’s most wanted man.

In an interview with AFP last week, the top commander of the SDF said that the battle was winding up but that his forces would need about a month to assert full control over the area and declare victory.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 1,200 militants and around half as many SDF fighters have been killed since the start of the offensive on Sept. 10.

The Britain-based monitoring group says more than 400 civilians have also perished, many of them killed by coalition airstrikes.


Israel strikes home of Palestinian militant commander in Gaza

Updated 22 min 26 sec ago

Israel strikes home of Palestinian militant commander in Gaza

  • Joint operation between the Israel army and Shin Bet domestic security service
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israel’s military struck the home of a commander for Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday, the army and residents said, with the enclave’s health ministry reporting that two people were killed.
“A building in the Gaza Strip, in which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad senior leader Baha Abu Al-Ata stayed in, was attacked,” Israel’s military said in a statement, calling it a joint operation between the army and Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service.
Residents reported an explosion hit Ata’s home and Gaza’s health ministry said two people were killed. The home was in the Shejayia district in the east of Gaza City.