DEIR AL-ZOR (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday that they took control of several strategic positions from the Islamic State (IS), in addition to killing dozens of its fighters.
“We have liberated more than 7 km from Daesh,” SDF fighter Fahed Alkhasham told Kurdistan 24, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
“We have taken control of the first two bases in addition to the villages of Baghoz Foqani and Baghoz Tahtani."
The SDF fighters, spearheaded by Kurdish YPG forces and backed by the US-led coalition with airstrikes and troops, last week started attacking the final remaining IS-held territory of Hajin from four positions.
SDF fighters are also opening a corridor and establishing a camp nearby for civilians who flee IS-held areas.
“The house over there is still held by Daesh. Coalition fighter jets are bombarding them heavily and intensively, but we request they take care of the civilians and avoid targeting them,” Mahmoud Alabas explained to Kurdistan 24 while pointing to IS targets on the frontline.
“We are worried about the civilians and we are eager to offer them shelter and protection,” he explained.
IS RESPONSE & CASUALTIES
Regarding the IS response to the offensive, SDF fighters said the militants also fight intensely and launch counterattacks to defend their last remaining stronghold in Syria. According to another SDF fighter named Fahed Alkhasham, they use snipers, car bombs, IEDs, and mines to repel the advance.
SDF media claims that as many as 23 IS militants were killed in eastern Hajin and that these forces are still fighting in the countryside and have not broken through into the town yet.
The SDF, on the other hand, lost about 20 fighters, including a commander in an ambush by IS outside of Susah, a strategic IS-held village to the east of Hajin.
“The fighters were advancing during a sandstorm, they were surrounded, ISIS members used explosives and opened fire,” according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitor tracing the Syrian war on the ground.
Earlier, about 17 SDF fighters were killed in the attacks, the monitor said. Since then, 53 IS militants and 37 SDF fighters have been killed in fierce clashes.
IS militants now control less than three percent of Syria and are mostly present in the vast Badiya desert, which lies between Damascus and the Iraqi border.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Saleh, embedded with the SDF in Deir al-Zor Province)