Backed Syrian force to start 'final battle' against IS enclave

Backed Syrian force to start 'final battle' against IS enclave

USA -backed forces in Syria announced the beginning Saturday of the possible final battle for the last village controlled by the Islamic State.

In the past week and a half, more than 20,000 civilians have been evacuated from the besieged area.

Earlier in the day, a war monitor reported that negotiations are underway in eastern Syria between the US -led forces and the IS group for the latter's withdrawal from its last redoubt.

A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told the AP news agency "the most experienced" jihadists are defending their last stronghold.

Trump said in December he was pulling all 2,000 US troops out of Syria, saying the battle against Islamic State there was nearly won.

The Observatory said 12 ISIS gunmen attacked the SDF and clashed with them for several hours until most of the attackers were killed early on Saturday.

Hundreds of civilians are also believed to be trapped inside one of the last IS territories.

The SDF, backed by a US-led coalition, has pushed IS back across a large swathe of northern and eastern Syria.

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He said that when the SDF detects movement from IS fighters, they bomb them, but added: "There have not been any major changes". Some of these are the most battle-hardened, ruthless and experienced fighters remaining in ISIS.

The SDF arrested 63 suspected militants in the Syrian city of Raqqa on Thursday during an operation against militant sleeper cells, it said in a statement.

The country's Kurds have largely stayed out of the conflict, instead developing semi-autonomous institutions in parts of the country's northeast under their control.

Trump's comments came. after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told coalition partners that the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from the region. did not signify the end of America's fight.

The SDF, backed by air strikes carried out of the US-led coalition, has driven out IS from towns and villages in north-eastern Syria in recent months.

In December 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara's armed forces were ready to initiate a campaign in eastern Syria if the U.S. didn't remove its Kurdish allies from the region.

While ISIS will soon no longer have fixed positions anywhere in Iraq or Syria, its surviving fighters have reverted to guerrilla warfare and remain a potent force.

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