Backed Syrian fighters advance in clashes with Daesh

Backed Syrian fighters advance in clashes with Daesh

BEIRUT (AP) _ A spokesman for US -backed Syrian forces says they have captured 41 positions held by Islamic State group militants and destroyed their fortifications in the last tiny pocket they hold in eastern Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by US air attacks, have successfully overtaken the terror group, which gained control of large swaths of northeastern Syria in 2014, NPR's Lama Al-Arian reports for our Newscast unit.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata reports on Monday ISIS fighters launched a fierce counterattack from the village of Baghuz Fawqani, seizing back territory from Kurdish-led forces.

SDF official Bali described the assault as "the last battle". Asked whether the withdrawal of America's more than 2,000 troops would begin in days or weeks, Votel said: "Probably weeks".

Many of those fighters are believed to be foreigners who traveled to Syria to join the terror group and have been unable to escape as they have been unable to blend in with the local population.

The alliance had earlier said that up to 600 jihadists as well as hundreds of civilians could remain inside a patch four square kilometres (one mile square).

He said: "The President's orders are very clear to us".

Bali said there were "dozens of SDF hostages held by IS" inside their last foothold, but denied reports of executions.

That would herald an end to the almost five-year-old war aimed at pushing the Islamic State out of its self proclaimed "caliphate", the once vast stretch of territory spanning Syria and Iraq that at its peak was roughly the size to Britain. It said he was being airlifted by the coalition to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. "There were heavy clashes this morning, with landmines going off", said Mr Rami Abdel-Rahman, head of the Britain-based war monitor.

Bali, of the SDF, said that "in the last two months, most who handed themselves in or were arrested were foreign". Turkey wants to set up a safe zone in northern Syria with logistical support from allies and says it should be cleared of the USA -backed YPG terrorists.

"You think of it, they do it", a commander for the People's Protection Unit (YPG), part of the SDF, told Daily Star Online.

In the northeastern Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli on Saturday, SDF fighters stood to attention at the funeral of a YPJ fighter who died fighting IS.

The militants have burrowed beneath the town, building a network of tunnels that allow them to shift from house to house undetected.

Despite its caliphate being on the brink of collapse, IS still retains a presence in Syria's vast Badia desert and has carried out deadly attacks in SDF-held territory. On Monday, the chief spokesman told CBS News there were far more civilians trapped inside that village than previously thought. In recent weeks, thousands of civilians, including families of IS fighters, left the area controlled by the extremists.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in December that Ankara was ready to launch a military operation against Kurdish fighters on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River as well as in Syria's Manbij, located near the Turkish border, if the United States did not remove the militia from there.

Damascus has rejected Kurdish self-rule, and has said it would eventually return the oil-rich third of the country now held by the SDF to government control.

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