US-backed alliance launches ‘final’ battle against IS in Syria
AL TANAK: A US-backed Kurdish-led alliance announced it is launching the final stage of its battle to expel the IS from its desert holdouts in eastern Syria. The United States confirmed the start of the military operation. Backed by the US-led coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces have driven the jihadists out of large parts of the country. But IS fighters have retained a presence in a few areas of the country, including in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor near the border with Iraq. The SDF’s Deir Ezzor Military Council on Tuesday said it would press its efforts to oust IS from remaining areas. “Our forces with the forces of the international coalition have started the last stage” of the anti-IS campaign, it said in a statement. The US State Department said later that the coalition and its “partners, including the Syrian Democratic Forces, are launching operations to liberate the final ISIS strongholds in Syria”. “The fighting will be difficult, but we and our partners will prevail… The days of ISIS controlling territory and terrorising the people of Syria are coming to an end,” it said in a statement. Air strikes killed at least 23 civilians including 10 children in a village held by the IS in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. “We don’t know for the moment if the US-led international coalition or Iraqi forces carried out the strike” on the village of Al-Qasr in Hasakeh province, the Observatory said. The Britain-based monitor relies on a network of sources on the ground for its information. The US-led coalition is backing a Kurdish-Arab alliance that has been fighting IS in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq. Iraq has also previously carried out strikes against IS jihadists in Syria, including a raid last month in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. Dozens of jihadists arrived in northern Syria on Tuesday under a deal with the regime for them to leave their enclave in southern Damascus, an AFP correspondent said. The fighters from Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate were transferred out of the Yarmuk district late Monday under a deal announced the previous day.