ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will not accept a safe passage deal for the remaining Islamic State fighters in the extremist group’s last pocket in Syria, the head of the SDF’s media center said on Monday.
In a tweet, Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF media center, said the Islamic State was “squashed into a tiny area” encompassing six kilometers-square. He also noted that the group “uses thousands of civilians as human shields in order to stop the progress of SDF.”
“They send messages via smugglers demanding an agreement which will let them flee the area in return for [the release of] civilians,” Bali stated.
According to the SDF official, Islamic State militants have used “civilians or smugglers” to send a message to the Kurdish-led forces, asking for a safe passage to Idlib, which the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) holds, or to Turkey.
During the final days of the Raqqa operation in October 2017, which lasted several months, there was a deal to evacuate the remaining Islamic State fighters along with civilians, who then traveled in a convoy to the Syrian Deir al-Zor province.
Additionally, during the last days of the Manbij operations in August 2016, the last Islamic State fighters left with civilians from Manbij to Jarabulus.
This time, however, the SDF says it will not allow the extremists to escape.
Bali said the SDF had rejected all the demands Islamic State fighters have made, emphasizing that the operation “will go on until the last terrorist is dead.”
SDF leaders say the battle against the Islamic State in Deir al-Zor is almost over.
“The operation of our forces against ISIS in its last pocket has reached its end, and ISIS militants are now surrounded in one area,” Mazlum Kobani, the chief of the SDF, told AFP on Thursday.
“We need a month to eliminate ISIS remnants still in the area.”
According to some sources, morale among the remaining Islamic State fighters is at an all-time low with many surrendering to the Kurdish-led SDF.
Last week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Islamic State members who remain “in an enclave east of the Euphrates refuse to surrender,” despite hundreds of others who have surrendered to the SDF.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany