Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) carry their weapons in a village on the outskirts of al-Shadadi town, Hasaka countryside, Syria – Reuters/Rodi Said
CAIRO – 20 February 2019: The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced Wednesday that a convoy carrying evacuated civilians has left the last Islamic State (IS) pocket in eastern Syria’s embattled Baghouz.
The SDF has said isolating the civilians in the enclave at Baghouz from the remaining extremists there is a crucial step toward the final capture of the area.
Reporters near the front line saw the trucks leaving the enclave.
The SDF warned the remaining IS fighters that they should surrender, or face death.
The Kurdish-led forces were able to trap the jihadists in less than half a kilometer within Baghouz, while dozens of civilians and some fighters surrendered themselves.
The SDF have slowed down their offensive as they seek to evacuate civilians before a final push to defeat IS, which seized swaths of Syria and Iraq in 2014 and declared a cross-border caliphate.
SDF spokesperson Adnan Afrin has said in press remarks that foreigners were among those who left the pocket, but their nationalities “have not yet been determined” and it was not clear if these foreigners were civilians or fighters.
The United Nations earlier expressed concern over “the situation of some 200 families, including many women and children, who are reportedly trapped” in the IS holdout.
Earlier Tuesday, another SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said his forces were preparing for a final push.
“We are working on secluding and evacuating civilians and then we will attack. This could happen soon,” he said.
IS fighters “have only two options, either they surrender or they will be killed in battle,” Bali said.
IS territories ran out of supplies and prices soared as civilians consumed the last of food rations; hundreds of fighters and civilians were sent hundreds of miles to refugee camps or prisons.