Backed forces battle last ISIS holdout, Middle East News & Top Stories

Kurds in Iraq say US withdrawal from Syria a mistake

Kurds in Iraq say US withdrawal from Syria a mistake

Between 500 to 1,000 civilians are also estimated to be inside, Bali said.

A final push against IS' last pocket of territory in eastern Syria is being made by SDF forces.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said: "The battle has started".

Over the course of the Syrian conflict, Al-Baghuz was captured by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists, who held it for several years until it was seized by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a broad coalition of armed groups supported by the U.S. and its allies - late last month.

He did not say how long the battle was expected to last.

US President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that the Islamic State group will by next week lose all the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria.

IS overran large parts of the country and neighboring Iraq in 2014, declaring a "caliphate" there, but various military offensives have reduced it to a fragment.

Bali said heavy fighting was going on inside the village of Baghouz on Sunday.

The SDF on Saturday launched a final push to clear the area from ISIL under the cover of airstrikes by the US -backed coalition.

"I suggested to my U.S. counterpart, Mike Pompeo, the idea of establishing a joint task force to coordinate the USA withdrawal from Syria, and he agreed to my proposal", said the minister.

Most of the dozen or so attackers were killed and two managed to escape after a battle lasting several hours, during which US airstrikes were called in, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

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"After the defeat of ISIS we can not say that the roots of violence and terrorism are over, as ISIS is an ideological status and not only a military structure", Assaad Bechara, political analyst and editor of Lebanon's Al-Joumhouria newspaper, told The Associated Press on Monday.

"Moreover, we have the SDF and local security forces that can achieve final security in the region", he concluded.

The SDF had delayed starting its last offensive, giving civilians time to flee.

The official also warned that the Islamic State would benefit from any U.S. withdrawal of over 2,000 troops from Syria.

"There is of course a safe corridor and civilians are coming out daily, and this reduces their number in Baghouz until we can be sure the town is free of civilians".

The Observatory said that since the SDF began its offensive against IS in the area on September 10, some 1,279 IS gunmen and 678 SDF fighters have been killed.

A top United States commander has issued a warning saying there are "tens of thousands" of ISIS fighters spread across Syria and Iraq.

He said: "They are in a pocket now which is a couple of miles by a couple of miles".

D'Agata has seen the fighting from eastern Syria, even being forced to run from ISIS bombs just last week.

Mushrooming black clouds rose over the embattled jihadist holdout in eastern Syria, as missiles and a warplane streaked through the sky.

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