SDF official says ISIS caliphate over but fight will continue

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At about 6 p.m. Saturday, as darkness crept over eastern Syria, Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition aircraft and using artillery and heavy machine guns began an assault of the last ISIS enclave in the country.

About 20,000 civilians have been evacuated from the area in the eastern province of Deir-el-Zour over the past few weeks to clear the way for a holds barred onslaught.

"The battle will be launched this evening and its mission will be to eliminate the last remnants of the terrorist organization", Mustafa Bali, the head of the SDF media office, said, describing it as the "last battle".

Gen. Christopher Ghika, deputy commander-strategy and information for the US-led coalition, said Islamic State fighters "are attempting to escape through intermixing with the innocent women and children attempting to flee the fighting".

"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".

A final push against IS' last pocket of territory in eastern Syria is being made by SDF forces. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

Trump announced in December he was pulling all 2,000 US troops out of Syria, saying the battle against Islamic State there was nearly won.

Washington views the Kurdish militia as loyal partners in the fight against ISIS, whose help will likely continue to be needed to prevent the group's resurgence. "It seems there are still many civilians inside Baghouz", Bali said.

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The YPG has spearheaded the SDF, the US' main ally in Syria.

The capture of Baghouz would mark the end of a four-year global war to end the extremist group's territorial hold over large parts of Syria and Iraq.

But the expected USA pullout has seen them grappling to mend ties with the Damascus regime, which is against Kurdish self-rule.

He has also mentioned that Moscow has not seen progress in the United States implementing its decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

The group says it is aware of at least five foreign ISIS suspects who were transferred from Syria to Iraq by U.S. forces.

US prepares full Syria withdrawal by end of April unless something changes Trump's mind - report All US forces will be withdrawn from Syria by the end of April, unless the Trump administration decides otherwise, the Wall Street Journal reported citing anonymous "current and former" officials.

The Kurds have largely stayed out of Syria's almost eight-year civil war, instead focusing on building their own semi-autonomous institutions in the northeast of the country.

ISIL still retains a presence in Syria's vast Badia desert and has claimed a series of deadly attacks by sleeper cells in SDF-held areas. The observatory also estimated that several hundred civilians remained in the area as well.