Islamic State group militants cornered of their final foothold in japanese Syria fought again with suicide automotive bombs, snipers and booby traps Monday, slowing Kurdish fighters advancing below the quilt of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, Kurdish information companies and a Syrian warfare monitor mentioned.
An Italian photographer was wounded within the clashes between the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the militants holed up within the village of Baghouz, close to the border with Iraq, an Italian information company mentioned.
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Nobody is aware of precisely what number of Islamic State fighters are nonetheless holding out within the sliver of territory below assault, though they’re estimated to be within the a whole bunch, most of them overseas fighters. It is usually unclear if civilians are nonetheless inside, caught below heavy bombardment.
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The SDF on Saturday launched its ultimate push to clear the world from IS, after months of combating that noticed 20,000 civilians fleeing simply previously few weeks. The numbers have overwhelmed Kurdish-run camps in northeastern Syria, the place humanitarian situations are already dire amid a chilly winter and meager assets.
The seize of the IS-held village of Baghouz and close by areas would mark the tip of a devastating four-year international warfare to finish the IS extremists’ territorial maintain over giant elements of Syria and Iraq, the place the group established its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in 2014. That in flip, would open the best way for U.S. President Donald Trump to start withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria as he has promised to do as soon as the Islamic State group has been defeated.
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“The U.S. will quickly management 100% of ISIS territory in Syria,” Trump tweeted Sunday. He has mentioned repeatedly that he doesn’t need the U.S. to be the world’s policeman and that he intends to carry the two,000 U.S. troops house.
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U.S. officers and Trump’s personal army advisers, nonetheless, have warned that dropping its territorial maintain doesn’t imply that the Islamic State group is defeated, warning that IS may stage a comeback in Syria inside six months to a yr if the army and counterterrorism stress on it’s eased. Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. forces within the Center East, estimated there are between 1,000 and 1,500 IS fighters within the small space they nonetheless management, however he mentioned others have “dispersed” and “gone to floor.”
In latest weeks, U.S. officers have mentioned IS has misplaced 99.5 % of its territory and is holding on to below 5 sq. kilometers (below 2 sq. miles), the place many of the fighters are concentrated in Syria. However activists and residents say IS nonetheless has sleeper cells in Syria and Iraq and is laying the groundworkKurd for an insurgency.
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Assad Bechara, a Lebanese political analyst, mentioned the Islamic State group is an ideology, not only a army construction, and it can’t be defeated just by reclaiming territory from the group.
“This (American) pullout will depart an enormous vacuum regardless of the allegations of defeating the final pockets of ISIS. This vacuum will improve the worldwide and regional wrestle for energy and affect in Syria,” he mentioned, which in flip could make it simpler for the militant group to return.
It isn’t clear how lengthy the ultimate push to free Baghouz from IS will take. Trump mentioned final week he had been informed that the total territorial conquest to defeat the Islamic State may very well be accomplished within the coming week.
However progress seems to be slower than what SDF officers had initially estimated. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights mentioned SDF have been shifting very slowly as a result of land mines and sniper hearth, in addition to the extremists’ use of tunnels and suicide automotive bombs. IS is also utilizing civilians as human shields, the Observatory mentioned.
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On Monday, the Observatory mentioned 13 IS militants, together with 5 suicide attackers, have been killed in addition to six SDF fighters. The Kurdish Hawar information company additionally reported heavy combating in Baghouz.
IS mentioned in an announcement posted late Sunday that two of its “martyrdom-seekers” attacked SDF fighters in Baghouz with their explosive-laden automotive.
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Syrian state media claimed a U.S.-led coalition airstrike close to Baghouz killed two girls and two kids. Greater than 20,000 civilians have left the IS-held space in latest weeks.
The Italian information company ANSA mentioned Milan-born Gabriele Micalizzi, 34, was injured within the face by splinters of a rocket-propelled grenade, including that his life was not at risk. It mentioned he was being airlifted by the coalition to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.