US 'optimistic' France, Britain will join stay-behind Syria force

Lester Mason
March 14, 2019

Around 2,000 members of the bloodthirsty terror have now surrendered after being flushed out of their hideouts in the war-ravaged town of Baghouz in eastern Syria.

Meanwhile, US-backed Syrian forces awaited orders Sunday to relaunch their push against the Islamic State group's final scrap of territory as an earlier exodus of civilians from the redoubt slowed to a trickle.

In both Iraq and Syria, ISIS continues to conduct small-scale attacks, assassinations, and is rebuilding its smuggling and ransom operations which funded their brutal reign.

The jihadists, waging a last-ditch battle in Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the Iraqi border, dispatched suicide bombers against SDF fighters, who thwarted the attacks, the US -backed force said.

The enclave is the last shred of territory held by ISIL fighters who have been driven from roughly one-third of Iraq and Syria over the past four years.

The US-led coalition helped the SDF offensive with air strikes on the final ISIS positions.

Russian warplanes struck for the first time in months the center of Idlib city, including a hospital and a prison on the outskirts from which dozens of inmates fled, residents said.

The SDF has said the battle for Baghouz, a collection of hamlets and farmland near the Iraqi border, is as good as over.

The ferocious assault continued late on Tuesday.

Live footage broadcast by Kurdish Ronahi TV showed a series of large blasts lighting up the night sky over Baghouz.

"Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment, but the fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over", Gen. Votel of CENTCOM said Thursday, March 7.

"Once our forces confirm that everyone who wants to surrender has done so. the clashes will resume", he said.

"The ISIS threat will remain", he added.

The SDF, which is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has been advancing slowly into Baghouz to minimize its losses from sniper fire and landmines.

Three SDF fighters have been killed, Mr Bali said on Twitter. The militant group's most hardened foreign fighters are holed up inside the enclave, the SDF has said.

Fighters surrendering from Baghouz are questioned and searched.

The group put out a new propaganda video overnight Monday filmed in recent weeks inside Baghouz, maintaining its claim to leadership of all Muslims and calling on its supporters to keep the faith.

Thousands of men and women have poured out of the pocket in recent weeks, hampering an advance by the US-backed SDF, which has paused its offensive multiple times to allow evacuations.

Host Martha Raddatz asked Bolton about Trump's comment last month that 100% of the territory previously held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had been taken back by the USA military.

"On Sunday night more than 3,000 people, mostly women and children in a poor state, reached the camp, bringing the population there to over 65,000", the WFP said. The World Health Organization said on Tuesday 106 people, mainly infants, have died since December on the journey to al-Hol, which takes at least six hours.

Obdurate support voiced by many evacuees for ISIS, particularly among foreigners, has posed a complex security, legal and moral challenge.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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