The Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have slowed their fight against the Islamic State in its last remaining pocket in eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq, SDF fighters said on Tuesday.
“Daesh terrorists have nothing left with which to defend themselves as their last days are numbered, but they are using civilians as human shields. As a result, we have to pause the fight sometimes,” Firat Rojhat, an SDF fighter, told Kurdistan 24 using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
SDF fighters have contained Islamic State fighters to a small area, about 10 square kilometers, east to the Euphrates River and along the border with Iraq.
“The Islamic State’s remaining fighters there are mostly foreigners,” Aysha Ahmad, a 32-year-old Syrian woman who has just fled the jihadist group’s areas, told Kurdistan 24.
“They didn’t talk to us, and if we ask them about the situation while passing through the market, they spoke broken Arabic,” she said.
The last remaining Islamic State-held pocket is surrounded by the SDF in the north and west, by the Iraqi border on the east, and Syrian regime forces in the south.
Earlier this week, Syrian state media, citing a military source, said US-led coalition jets had hit Syrian army positions near the Islamic State battlefront.
SDF fighters on the frontlines commented that some high ranking jihadists were trying to flee into regime areas when coalition forces struck them.
“The area held by Daesh is very small and contains thousands of the terrorists, their families, and hundreds of civilians,” one SDF fighter told Kurdistan 24 on the condition of anonymity.
The Islamic State now holds only a couple of villages in Syria, having lost almost all of its territory in 2017 to two rival offensives, one by the SDF and one by the Syrian army and allied militias backed by Russia.
The terrorist organization also holds an enclave in a desert in the center of the country surrounded by the Syrian army.