SDF fighters break into ISIS holdout in east Syria
Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have broken into an eastern holdout of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) on the Iraqi border, AFP reported Thursday (December 6th).
The Arab-Kurdish alliance, backed by airstrikes of the international coalition, has been battling to oust ISIS from the pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor since September.
But the SDF suffered a series of setbacks, including due to a vicious fightback by extremists and bad weather that impeded visibility.
On Thursday, an SDF commander said the alliance had managed to break into the pocket and wrest part of its main town from ISIS.
"Heavy clashes are ongoing inside the town of Hajin, after our forces advanced inside and started to control some of its neighbourhoods," Redur Khalil told AFP.
The SDF opened up humanitarian corridors out of the beleaguered pocket, allowing more than 1,000 civilians -- mostly woman and children -- to flee from Hajin in the past few days.
Khalil accused ISIS of using civilians as human shields, and said the corridors would remain open.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the SDF launched an attack on Tuesday and than dozens of families had managed to flee.
The attack was backed by the heaviest shelling and airstrikes by the coalition since the start of the offensive on the Hajin pocket on September 10th, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Since Tuesday, 34 extremists including three suicide bombers, and 17 SDF fighters have been killed in the fighting, the Observatory said.
"The liberation of Hajin will not signify the end of ISIS," Khalil said, warning it would retain sleeper cells. "Operations to expel them will still last a long time."