ISIS use human shields against US-backed troops in last stronghold

ISIS militants are using civilian human shields as they fight US-backed troops in their last remaining Syrian stronghold but ‘will still be defeated soon’

  • SDF say battle for Baghouz ‘will be over soon’ despite the use of human shields
  • The resumption follows a two week pause to allow thousands to be evacuated
  • Hundreds of ISIS extremists are cowering behind women and children in town
  • A ‘fierce battle’ is now raging through tunnels and caves held by the terrorists

ISIS militants are using civilians as human shields in the fight against US-backed troops in their last remaining Syrian stronghold.

Spokesman for the Kurdish SDF forces Mustafa Bali said that the battle ‘will be over soon’ despite a painstaking effort to evacuate women and children from Baghouz in eastern Syria.

The self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ which once controlled nearly a third of both Iraq and Syria has been backed into a last remaining citadel of a few hundred fighters.

The SDF resumed their brutal siege as shells rained down after a two week pause to allow for thousands to be carted off to holding camps. 

A shell explodes in Baghouz in eastern Syria as the SDF resumed their brutal siege on the last few hundreds militants of ISIS

A Kurd with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder runs for cover as his comrades begin pushing through the town

Pounds of explosives rained down on the last remaining stronghold as the US-backed forces seek to drive out the extremists from the land

A Kurdish SDF fighter stands in the turret of a Humvee as he scans for ISIS fighters who are cowering behind human shields

Smoke billows from the town as shelling resumed on Monday as the SDF say that battle ‘will soon be over’

A woman walks carrying a child past members of the Kurdish-led SDF who worked to process thousands of evacuees in the last few weeks

A mother shrouded in a niqab holds her young child as evacuated townspeople were processed by SDF forces after fleeing Baghouz in eastern Syria last week

Experts believe there are still hundreds of ISIS militants who have cowered behind their wives and children in caves and tunnels in their last bastion. 

Thousands of men – many of them suspected terrorists – women and children have limped from the ruins in the last few weeks.

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They have been driven out into the desert, separated and screened by the Kurdish forces before being moved north to camps in al-Hol. 

The military campaign to drive out the the militants from the eastern banks of the Euphrates began in September, pushing them down toward this last corner in the village near the Iraqi border.

A Kurdish warrior loads a strap of bullets into his machine gun magazine as he prepares to lay down rounds on Sunday

The earth around Baghouz shuddered and dust was kicked up as explosives detonated on the IS held territory

Surrounded: The beleaguered IS forces now number just a few hundred who are cowering behind women and children

A Kurdish fighter smokes a cigarette as he watches his comrades put a fire storm down range in eastern Syria

The military operation was halted on February 12 after the SDF discovered there was still a large number of civilians and hostages in the territory, which sits atop caverns and tunnels where they had been hiding. 

The evacuees have told of diminished food supplies, as well as a lack of clean water and medicine. 

Last week the SDF spokesman Bali said he expected a ‘fierce battle.’

He said the battles are expected to take place in a very small area that includes a complex network of tunnels, as well as suicide bombers and land mines.

Fragments of hot metal burst from an explosion on the settlement as the extremists prepare to go to the grave for their futile cause

Black smoke spreads across the horizon as heavy ordnance is delivered to the ramshackle buildings

A Kurdish SDF fighter scans the battlefield as his forces prepare to make a brave push into the tunnel network of the jihadists

‘The battle to finish off what is left Daesh has started,’ said SDF commander Adnan Afrin, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The capture of Baghouz would mark the end of a devastating four-year global campaign to end the extremist group’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq.

It would allow U.S. President Donald Trump to begin withdrawing the estimated 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, as he declared in December he would do.

Though last week he partially reversed course and agreed to keep a residual force of perhaps a few hundred troops as part of an international effort to stabilise northeastern Syria.

A Kurdish brave stands with his assault rifle as shells erupt on the horizon in sunny Baghouz

SDF fighters stand on a terrace to watch over the bombardment, as they prepare to enter the town on foot

A fighter for the SDF prays on Sunday as rocket propelled grenades and a launcher rest on the wall beside him

Call it in: A Kurdish fighter holds up his radio as shelling resumed on the ISIS stronghold

In the last week alone, 13,000 people, most of them women and children, arrived at the al-Hol camp in Hassakeh province which now houses approximately 45,000 people, according to the United Nations.

In a statement on Friday, the U.N. cited reports that more than 84 people, two thirds of them young children under five years of age, have died since December on their way to al-Hol camp after fleeing the extremist group in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province.

‘Many of the arrivals are exhausted, hungry and sick,’ according to Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at a news briefing in Geneva.

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