US-led warplanes bombed the north bank of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria early Friday to flush out holdout militants from the last sliver of their crumbling control.
Friday’s bombardment ended two days of relative calm on the front line in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces had paused its advance while it combed a makeshift militant encampment it overran on Tuesday.
An SDF official who asked not to be named said that warplanes of the US-led coalition resumed airstrikes on suspected militant positions in the early hours of the morning.
Top SDF commander Jia Furat said his forces were engaging with the militants on several fronts while the coalition warplanes provided air support. The US-led coalition said the “operation to complete the liberation of Baghouz is ongoing”.
“It remains a hard fight, and ISIS is showing that they intend to keep fighting for as long as possible,” it said. The SDF launched an assault against the militants’ last redoubt in the village of Baghouz on February 9.
On Tuesday, they cornered diehard fighters into a few acres of farmland by the Euphrates River, after forcing them out of the encampment where they had been hold up.
The six-month-old operation to wipe out the last vestige of ISIS is close to reaching its inevitable outcome. But the SDF said on Thursday that a declaration of victory would be made only after mopping up operations had been completed.
The loss of the Baghouz enclave would signal the final demise of ISIS in Syria, after its defeat in Iraq in 2017. But ISIS has already begun its transformation into a guerilla organization, and still carries out deadly hit-and-run attacks from desert or mountain hideouts.