New Battle Emerges for Islamic State’s Last Syria Enclave

U.S-backed fighters will resume their assault on Islamic State’s last, small patch of ground in eastern Syria if no more civilians come out by Saturday afternoon, one of their spokesmen said on Friday, Reuters reported.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have slowed their offensive on the jihadist enclave at Baghouz near the Iraqi border to allow many thousands of people to pour out in an exodus that has lasted weeks. Last month SDF launched what it called a “final battle” to take the cluster of houses and farmland, and people leaving the enclave have described harrowing conditions of peril and hardship.

The SDF said a week ago that it believed all civilians had come out and renewed its assault, leading to a new surge of displacement, including obdurate disciples of Islamic State, some of its captives and hundreds of surrendering fighters.

A Yazidi woman who emerged on Thursday spoke of years of enslavement and abuse by the jihadists. Two Iraqi boys who came out with her, pretending to be her brothers, said many fighters remained dug into tunnels in Baghouz.

The capture of Baghouz will mark the end of Islamic State’s territorial rule over populated areas of Iraq and Syria, and the culmination of a U.S.-backed military campaign waged by the SDF for four years, Reuters noted.

After suddenly seizing swathes of land straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border in 2014 and declaring it their caliphate, Islamic State were beaten back by numerous local and foreign forces in both countries, suffering major defeats in 2017.

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