OUTSKIRTS OF BAGHOUZ, Syria-The ISIS terrorists group faces final territorial defeat as the USA -backed Syrian force battling the jihadists said on Saturday, March 3, it was closing in on the jihadists' last bastion near the Iraqi border, capping four years of efforts to roll back the group.
As they trickled out, SDF and coalition officials screened them.
The SDF had said it expected a "decisive battle" on Sunday after advancing gradually for 18 hours to avoid land mines sown by Daesh, whose fighters are also using underground tunnels to stage ambushes and then disappear. Picture taken with a long exposure. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.
The SDF thrust forward on Saturday and closer combat ensued at night, with tracer ammunition flashing glimpses of the battle ripping the village apart.
Afrin said he expects "resistance" from the remaining fighters who are likely to deploy all their weapons, including suicide bombers.
The evacuees included a man who said he was French, men and women from Indonesia, Turkey, Turkistan and Bosnia and many Syrians and Iraqis.
On Friday, the smallest batch of evacuees, just over 200, came out of the pocket in around six trucks used to transport sheep.
Thousands of fighters, followers and civilians had retreated to this tiny cluster of hamlets and farmland in Deir al-Zor province as ISIS territory shrunk and over the last few weeks, they have poured out, holding up the final assault.
The SDF, which launched a broad operation against the jihadists' last bastions in the Euphrates Valley in September, said Friday they had evacuated the last batch of civilians.
The US has around 2,000 troops in Syria mainly to support the SDF in fighting against Islamic State.
The resumption of military operations against IS breaks a dayslong standoff while the civilians were being evacuated.
The mostly Iraq-based religious minority are considered heretics by IS, which tried to exterminate them in 2014 with massacres that were among the reasons the United States intervened militarily.
Near the northwestern province of Idlib, a Syrian jihadist group linked to al-Qaida killed 21 Syrian soldiers and allied militiamen, in one of the most serious violations of a months-old truce in the area, according to activists and a Syria war monitor.