The United States-backed Syrian forces launched an assault against the final ISIS terrorist enclave in eastern Syria on March 10, aiming to wipe out the last vestige of its self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
While the Baghouz enclave represents the last shred of populated land held by the terrorists, the group is still widely seen as a big security threat operating in remote territory elsewhere and able to launch guerrilla attacks.
The United States backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been poised to advance into the enclave for weeks but has repeatedly held back to allow for the evacuation of civilians, many of them wives and children of ISIS fighters.
Once this village is taken, the U.S.-backed coalition is expected to formally declare the end of “caliphate” which the ISIS terror group proclaimed in 2014, according to the BBC.
“We have been able to liberate a number of positions from them. We are currently advancing with the support of the international coalition from the air and on the ground as well,” Rustam Hasake, an SDF commander told Aljazeera.
Mustafa Bali, the head of SDF Press Office in northern Syria said in a Tweet: “The timeline that we give it for ISIS to surrender themselves is over—our forces is ready now to start and finish what is left in ISIS hands.
“The SDF could rescue thousands of civilians during the past month/plus thousands of ISIS members surrender to our forces.”
– the timeline that we give it for ISIS to surrender themselves is over
– our forces is ready now to start and finish what is left in ISIS hands
– the SDF could rescue thousands of civilians during the past month/ plus thousands of IS members surrender to our forces
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 10, 2019
The coalition forces were positioned to advance into the Baghuz enclave for weeks but were held back to allow the evacuation of civilians. Bali shared in a Tweet on March 3: “We’re slowing down the offensive in Baghouz due to a small number of civilians held as human shields by Daesh.”
On March 5, the coalition forces captured 400 ISIS terrorists trying to flee Baghuz, Bali shared a video of the captured terrorists on Twitter.
On the 5th of March and in a special operation , the SDF special forces had captured 400 ISIS terrorists who tried to escape from Baghuz . pic.twitter.com/HQ1DsmSiMv
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 8, 2019
On March 4, Bali had shared that the coalition forces had evacuated 3,000 people from the terrorist enclave.
Slowing down the offensive in #Baghouz yesterday, we managed to evacuate about 3.000 ppl from ISIS pocket through the corridor we opened. A large number of Daesh jihadists surrendered to our forces among the same group overnight.
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 4, 2019
Today in #Baghouz
-3.500 people were evacuated from Daesh-held territory.
-500 of them are Daesh terrorists who surrendered to our forces.
-5 SDF fighter who had been held hostage were liberated.
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 5, 2019
The coalition forces announced their plan to capture Baghouz in September but had held down a full-blown attack due to a substantial civilian presence in the region, according to Aljazeera.
Ten of thousands of people have been evacuated out of the shrinking ISIS territory in the last few months and Aljazeera reports that aid agencies are facing a major challenge to keep with the inflow of people.
The future of a whole generation has been destroyed by ISIS. Thousands of orphans in our camps need serious healthcare and education/rehabilitation services in order to recover after what they’ve been through. We shouldn’t let them become victims of war again. pic.twitter.com/SYzWwtt54K
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) February 27, 2019
ISIS has been driven from the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq by an array of enemies, including forces backed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, in addition to the United States.
The SDF, spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has been the main United States partner in Syria and has steadily driven the group down the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, forcing its fighters and followers to fall back to Baghouz.
At morining pic.twitter.com/SVmIaYe9qN
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 2, 2019
Reuters contributed to this report.