Backed Syrian force launches 'final battle' against IS enclave

Backed Syrian force launches 'final battle' against IS enclave

Backed Syrian force launches 'final battle' against IS enclave

USA -backed and Kurdish-led Syrian forces say they have begun the final push to defeat the Islamic State group in the last pocket it holds in eastern Syria.

SDF official Mustafa Bali, speaking to Reuters, described the assault as "the last battle".

"IS counterattack was foiled at 4 am this morning", Bali tweeted on Sunday morning. The administration is expected to announce in the coming days that US-backed fighters and US-led airstrikes have succeeded in driving ISIS out of all the territory in Syria it once controlled. A USA official told Reuters that the US military is planning to completely withdraw from Syria by the end of April.

Trump wants to withdraw US troops from Syria by the end of April, a plan that has alarmed European allies who fear Islamic State would resurface in Syria in the absence of a credible peace plan to end the country's civil war.

The SDF, backed by a USA -led coalition, began the assault on Saturday, seeking to wipe out the last remnants of the jihadist group's "caliphate" in the SDF's area of operations in eastern and northern Syria.

Bali said 400 to 600 jihadists were estimated to be holed up in the enclave, including foreigners and other hardened fighters.

Kurdish-led forces spearheading the offensive have paused operations but US President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that a final declaration of victory would come next week.

Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is believed to have fled an attempted coup by fighters within his own group last month, senior regional intelligence officials have told the Guardian.

"Rest assured, we'll do what it takes to defeat every ounce and every last person within the ISIS madness" he said, using another acronym for IS.

At least 48 suspected IS members were among them, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The SDF said it has not been in communication or agreed the ceasefire with IS.

SDF commanders have told CNN that its fighters are being met by fierce resistance from ISIS militants, who are retaliating with heat-seeking missiles.

Since September, more than 1,270 IS militants, more than 670 SDF fighters, and around 400 civilians have been killed in the fighting, the Observatory says.

Back in December 2018, Trump announced a plan to withdraw the USA military in Syria, . a decision that unsettled its allies at the time.

Votel is one of many current and former US officials who have warned of the risk of a resurgence by Islamic State unless the United States and its allies can keep pressure on the group following the USA withdrawal.

Related news