US-backed force expects ‘decisive battle’ against Daesh

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Members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces prepare to search men and boys suspected of being Daesh on March 1, 2019. (AFP)
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A female fighter from Syrian Democratic Forces stands on a military vehicle near the village of Baghouz. (Reuters)
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A girl takes a stack of bread from an SDF fighter near the village of Baghouz, Deir Ezzor province, Syria, on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 03 March 2019

US-backed force expects ‘decisive battle’ against Daesh

  • The remaining militants are mostly foreigners who are using tunnels to hide and launch surprise attacks against SDF fighters
  • The US-led international coalition supporting the SDF has described them as the ‘most hardened’ militants

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria: The US-backed Syrian force closing in on Daesh’s last territorial bastion near the Iraqi border expects a “decisive battle” on Sunday after advancing slowly, a spokesman said overnight.

Capturing Baghouz, an eastern Syrian village on the bank of the Euphrates River, would cap four years of international efforts to roll back the militants, but the group remains a threat, using guerrilla tactics and holding some desolate land further west.

Thousands of fighters, followers and civilians had retreated to this tiny cluster of hamlets and farmland in Deir Ezzor province as Daesh territory shrunk and over the last few weeks, they have poured out, holding up the final assault.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clashed with Daesh for nearly 18 hours inside Baghouz after removing the remaining civilians and resuming their assault on Friday evening.

“Our forces are advancing at a slow pace to avoid any problems since Daesh (IS) mined the area very extensively. Thousands of mines are present along the roads in that small patch,” said Marvan Qamishlo, an SDF military media official.

“We expect a decisive battle in the morning,” he said on a hill overlooking Baghouz.

The remaining militants are mostly foreigners who are using tunnels to hide and launch surprise attacks against SDF fighters, Qamishlo added.

The SDF has previously estimated several hundred Daesh insurgents to be inside, and the US-led international coalition supporting the SDF has described them as the “most hardened” militants.

The SDF commander-in-chief said on Thursday that his force would declare victory within a week.


Erdogan hit by more arms bans as pressure grows over Syria invasion

Updated 16 October 2019

Erdogan hit by more arms bans as pressure grows over Syria invasion

  • United States threatens more sanctions
  • Britain, Spain and Sweden joined Germany and France in suspending military exports

ANKARA: Three more countries halted arms sales to Turkey on Tuesday as pressure mounted on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the Turkish invasion of northeast Syria.

Britain, Spain and Sweden joined Germany and France in suspending military exports, and the US threatened Ankara with more sanctions unless Erdogan halts the offensive.

“We will keep our defense exports to Turkey under very careful and continual review,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. “No further export licenses to Turkey for items which might be used in military operations in Syria will be granted while we conduct that review.”

Spain, a major arms exporter to Turkey, urged Erdogan to “put an end to this military operation” because it endangered regional stability, increased the number of refugees and threatened Syria’s territorial integrity.

“In coordination with its EU partners, Spain will deny new export licenses for military equipment that can be used in the operation in Syria,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Sweden also halted exports of military combat equipment. “Two permits that have been active have now been recalled,” it said.

BACKGROUND

Vice President Mike Pence will hold talks with Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday, and the UN Security Council will discuss the invasion.

Erdogan’s assault against Kurdish forces, launched last week, has prompted a chorus of international condemnation. “Many NATO allies are very critical and are condemning the military operation in northern Syria,” said Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, the Western military alliance of which Turkey is a member.

Russia’s presidential envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said Turkey had no right to deploy its forces in Syria permanently, and Moscow had not approved the operation.

US President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on Turkey on Monday, and on Tuesday the US said more sanctions would follow unless the invasion was halted.

“The plan is to continue the pressure on Turkey as we evaluate our chances to return the relationship to normal, a major element of that return to normal would be a cease-fire,” a senior administration official said. “And by cease-fire what I mean is forces on the ground stop moving on the ground.”

Vice President Mike Pence will hold talks with Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday, and the UN Security Council will discuss the invasion.