UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — The last Islamic state enclave in eastern Syria was hit by air strikes and artillery on Monday as part of a US-backed attack aimed at wresting control of the last foothold of an organization that once ruled one-third of Syria and Iraq.
Reuters footage showed the shooting intensified after dark in Baguoz, near the Iraqi border, with rockets targeting the area as smoke billowed into the air. Heavy gunfire was heard while the night sky lit up the flames.
The Syrian Democratic Forces said their forces faced sniper fire as well as landmines, adding that they were advancing slowly to avoid casualties.
She said foreign fighters from the Islamic state were still holed up in the area, noting that the air strikes destroyed warehouses and vehicles of the Islamic state.
The defeat of the Islamic state in the Baguoz would be a milestone in the war on the militant organization and would end its control of populated land in the vast area of Iraq and Syria, which suddenly expanded in 2014 and declared an Islamic caliphate.
But the organization has already shown that it will continue as a strong security threat by launching a series of attacks in both countries.
A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States did not believe the top Islamic leaders were still in Baguoz.
“We are very confident that leadership is not in this small, stricken area,” he said.
“We are confident that most of the (leadership) moved to other areas as part of our assessment of their move to carry out guerrilla attacks or prepare for an upcoming battle when they no longer have control of territory,” he said.
Adnan Afreen, a leader of Syria’s democratic forces, said US-backed forces had made “minor advances” since their offensive resumed late on Sunday, killing and wounding many hardline militants. Reuters could not independently verify this.
Syria’s military demilitarized operations continued on Monday, coinciding with coalition air strikes, but Afrin said progress was slow as troops wanted to complete the operation with minimal losses.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, said Islamic state fighters tried to carry out four suicide attacks and found a weapons depot. One of the troops was killed and four wounded.
The troops have not launched a full-scale offensive over most of the past few weeks due to the exit of thousands of Baguoz, including surrendering fighters, supporters of the Islamic state, civilians and some prisoners of the organization.
No more people left by Sunday evening, prompting Syria’s democratic forces to start their offensive.
– Difficult situations –
Inside the Baguoz, footage of Reuters television showed on Sunday the difficult conditions in the ruins of the Khilafah state announced by the organization where the primitive tents spread and rubbish was scattered in an area full of fouling.
In the midst of palm trees and farmland, rusty cars were in the midst of primitive tents. Plastic and metal drums were scattered in the area.
Syria’s democratic forces have moved most of the fugitives from the remaining rule of the Islamic state over the past few weeks into the hinterland of northeastern Syria, where some 65,000 people live in a camp the United Nations says can only seat 20,000 people.
The defense of many of the fugitives on the Islamic state, especially foreigners, has posed a complex security, legal and moral challenge to Syria’s democratic forces and their governments.
Attention was drawn to the case on Friday by the death of a young British baby boy, Shaima Begum, who left her home to join the militant group.
Nearly 3,000 children from 43 countries live in the sprawl, along with many Syrian and Iraqi children, in “very tragic” conditions, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told a news conference in Beirut on Monday.
“Since January 1, 2019, there is a child dying every day while fleeing war on a preacher.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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