DEIR AL-ZOR (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed Kurdish alliance fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria on Sunday said they had surrounded towns on the border with Iraq.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters told Kurdistan 24 they now controlled the towns of Baghouz and Bahra, the main gateways to Hajin, the last IS stronghold in Syria.
“They usually attack us at night, at about 10:00 or 11:00 pm, but we [always] repel their attacks,” Khalil Heseke, an SDF fighter asserted.
According to SDF fighters on the frontlines, the senior and most prominent IS commanders are still in Hajin.
The US-led international coalition is also monitoring the situation and regularly bombarding IS positions and convoys.
IS militants will plant mines and IEDs in the positions from which they withdraw, an SDF fighter stated, booby-traps designed to inflict casualties among the coalition forces and civilians.
“Sometimes they attack directly, and sometimes they infiltrate our areas and setting IEDs behind enemy lines,” Rasheed Hisen, an SDF fighter, claimed.
Earlier this month, the SDF announced it was relaunching efforts to clear IS from the few areas in Syria where they maintain a presence, including in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir al-Zor near the border with Iraq.
The operation aims to secure the southeast portion of the Syria-Iraq border in coordination with Iraqi security forces.
The SDF had put on hold its fight against IS after Turkey launched an assault in January on the northwestern Kurdish Canton of Afrin.
The SDF at the time redeployed 1,700 fighters from the eastern fronts who were facing IS to help fight the Turkish military, which eventually captured Afrin in March.
The SDF alliance, spearheaded by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), has seized vast tracts of territory from IS in northern and eastern Syria.
The US support for the YPG, however, has infuriated Turkey, which views the Kurdish group as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been engaged in a three-decade-long fight in Turkey for greater Kurdish rights.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Saleh from the frontline at Bahra village)