HAJIN (Kurdistan 24) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday said they had made significant advances amid heavy fighting in the Islamic State’s (IS) last stronghold in eastern Syria.
IS militants planted many mines and IEDs in the neighborhoods they left behind in Hajin, dug a wide network of tunnels, and placed many snipers on high buildings, some SDF fighters on the front line told Kurdistan 24.
Backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, the SDF fighters have advanced in the west side of Hajin town in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor province near the border with Iraq.
The most notable obstacle that hinders the SDF’s advance is the civilians stranded by IS militants who use them as human shields.
“We are trying to besiege many other sides of Hajin to free the rest of the civilians, then we can begin the final assault,” an SDF fighter told Kurdistan 24.
Moreover, IS militants are using hospitals and mosques as bases to target SDF fighters.
The extremists are desperate and launch counter-attacks as well, but SDF fighter who are heading to the main hospital which the militants still hold are repelling their assault, an SDF fighter told Kurdistan 24.
Another fighter explained why IS militants are retreating despite their defense mechanisms, including snipers, tunnels, human shields, mines, and IEDs.
“Whenever they [IS] are defeated militarily, they are broken psychologically as well,” he said.
“They lose their morale and thus they retreat.”
In the past few days, about 2,500 civilians have fled to the SDF areas.
On another front in Baghoz near the border with Iraq, the SDF said in an online statement they controlled 15 points, including schools and mosques IS had used.
Regarding casualties, the SDF said they killed 55 militants in the past few days.
On Sept. 11, the SDF and the US-led coalition announced the start of their operation to take the last remaining IS-held town of Hajin, located along the banks of the Euphrates River, in addition to the surrounding villages of Baghoz, Susah, and Shafa’. The SDF gained control of Baghoz and Susah in the final week of October.
On Oct. 31, the SDF announced it had decided to temporarily halt its campaign against the extremist group until Turkey ended its attacks on Syria’s northeast.
Following intensive discussions with the coalition, the General Command of the SDF announced on Nov. 11 that it would resume military operations against IS in the region.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Reporting in Kurdish by Akram Salih, Kurdistan 24 correspondent embedded with the SDF in Hajin)