The international coalition against Daesh in Syria, alongside the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have begun what is expected to be the last battle with militants in the eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor.
The third phase in “Operation Roundup” that was launched earlier this year, witnessed a ground offensive conducted by the SDF, with clashes reported in the towns of Hajin, Al-Baghouz and Al-Sussa close to the Iraqi border. The operation is also being supported by aerial bombardment from the US-led coalition, with local news outlets reporting bombing taking place throughout the night at a rate of one attack every five minutes.
“The operation is the last major SDF ground offensive in the MERV (Middle Euphrates Valley) to liberate the citizens from the brutal rule [of Daesh] over the past four years,” US Army Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolvem, said in a statement on Monday.
“I don’t believe trying to free Hajin from ISIS [Daesh] was ever attempted in this military manner,” he added. “The Coalition will continue to support and promote regional stability to ensure the conditions which gave rise to ISIS [Daesh] never return.”
SDF officials confirmed the start of the operation on Twitter yesterday, with spokesman Kino Gabriel stating in a video message that the SDF were fighting the battle on behalf of the world to defeat terrorism.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported yesterday that explosions have rocked the Deir Ez-Zor countryside, with clashes killing some 40 Daesh members and at least ten SDF fighters this week.
Civilians have been allowed to leave the area, with safe paths opened for families fleeing the fighting.
In another statement, the coalition reiterated it would not leave Syria once Daesh loses control of its last pockets of territory.
“Moving forward, we will continue coordination with the SDF and other partners to promote regional security and stability that will ensure a lasting defeat of ISIS,” said Major General Patrick Roberson, commander of the coalition’s Special Operations Joint Task Force.
The statement echoed the comments of US Defence Secretary James Mattis, who has previously stated that the US military will fight Daesh in Syria “as long as they want to fight”.
The international coalition’s campaign also coincides with an operation by the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, backed by the Russian air force, to oust Daesh from a pocket in the desert of Suwaida, with government forces noting several casualties.