Backed forces holding 2,000 ISIS fighters in Syria | #109581

Friday, 08 Mar, 2019

Despite the slow and bloody progress that has marked the last days of the SDF's anti-IS campaign in Baghouz, sources who spoke to Syria Direct on Tuesday appeared confident that battle would soon reach a decisive conclusion.

Hundreds of people including IS fighters evacuated their last foothold in eastern Syria hours after USA -backed Syrian fighters said they were forced to slow their advance because the extremists are using civilians as human shields.

Hundreds of people left the last area held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria on Tuesday where they gathered in a massive reception area to be searched and screened by USA -backed fighters.

A total of 3,500 people exited the riverside village of Baghouz, including 500 jihadists who had surrendered, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said.

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The mass outpouring of people from the dying "caliphate" has sparked a major humanitarian emergency, with the United Nations saying hundreds are expected to arrive at Kurdish-run camps for the displaced on Tuesday alone.

According to SDF commanders in Baghouz, progress has also been slowed by the suspected presence of large numbers of civilians, tucked away within the last clusters of tents and buildings, as well as IS' use of vehicle bombs and explosive boobytraps.

The US-backed forces resumed their offensive on Baghouz last Friday, after a two-week pause to allow for the evacuation of civilians. With the militants besieged on three sides by the SDF and civilians continuing to leave the pocket, a military defeat of the IS fighters seemed inevitable, though it wasn't clear how many fighters remained in Baghouz. Around 3,000 were evacuated on Monday.

Mr Bali said "we're slowing down the offensive" due to a small number of civilians held as human shields. There's a particularly challenging issue with fighters from other countries who joined ISIS, and whose home nations now no longer want them back. However, he died in a mortar attack two days later.

Mostafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, said that among some 6,500 people fleeing since Monday after the SDF opened a corridor for them to flee, hundreds of jihadists had surrendered.

Dilbar Ali Ravu, 10, is kissed by his aunt Dalal Ravu after Yazidi children were reunited with their families in Iraq after five years of captivity with the Islamic State group, Saturday, March 2, 2019.