Final push against ISIS holdouts in Syria

The Islamic State group has lost all its territory in Syria except for a besieged pocket of land near the Iraqi border

The Islamic State group has lost all its territory in Syria except for a besieged pocket of land near the Iraqi border

The US-backed force waging the battle against ISIS in its last pocket has killed dozens of fighters and captured an arms dump as it restarted an offensive to wrest the scrap of territory from the group.

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

The area has been under attack since September by the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces who in recent weeks have advanced on the town from three sides, besieging it.

He said SDF had not observed any more civilians in the area, prompting the decision to attack.

Before the recent offensive started last month, SDF officials estimated that 1,500 civilians and 500 ISIS fighters remained, but as the assault got under way it became clear that the actual number was much higher.

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The senior USA defense official said the US and the SDF had greatly underestimated not only the number of IS fighters and affiliated civilians holed up in the final slice of IS territory, but also the amount of time it would take to finish off the fight.

By this morning, the SDF had seized several positions from holdout jihadists, an official with the US-backed forces said.

US-backed forces launched an assault yesterday against the village of Baghuz, where thousands of Islamic State fighters are making their last stand.

Around 400 men, women and children, mostly jihadists and their relatives, have since handed themselves over to the SDF, field commander Ahmed Qasser told AFP.

In Washington, a senior defense official estimated that almost 20,000 people, including 3,500 to 4,000 adult males, have emerged from Baghouz since February 20.

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The late Assad is the father of President Bashar Assad whose forces have made major gains over the past few years in the war with backing from his strong allies, Russian Federation and Iran.

Sirens screaming, an ambulance hurtled across the ruins in the village of Baghouz.

More than 100 people - mostly young children - have died on the way to the camp of Al-Hol or shortly after arriving, according to the International Rescue Committee aid group. Most were underground, and there is no sign they're anywhere near clear of the area.

Those issues were underscored on Friday with the death of the newborn son of Shamima Begum, a British woman who left to join Islamic State when she was a schoolgirl. Many are wives and children of IS fighters.

"The message that these children are not wanted is growing stronger and stronger", said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF's Middle East director.

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