Backed Kurdish Forces Launch 'Final Push' Against ISIS In Syria

Map showing last IS-held territory in Syria

Syrian fighters backed by artillery fire from a US-led coalition battled a fierce jihadist fightback Monday as they pushed to retake a last morsel of territory from the Islamic State group.

Black smoke clouds rose over ISIL's final territory in Deir Az Zor province on Monday as coalition fighter jets fired missiles in support of the Kurdish-led militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Balli said the battle aims to eliminate all remaining IS militants in Baghouz.

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

US Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on February 5, 2019, in Washington.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is not believed to be in Baghouz, Mr Bali said, and likely not in Syria.

Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman, tweeted that SDF forces had destroyed fortifications in the Village of Baghuz, but that heavy fighting continued.

Since December, tens of thousands of people, most women and children related to IS fighters, have fled to SDF territory.

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The United States is likely just weeks away from starting the withdrawal of ground troops from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, the top US commander overseeing American forces in the Middle East said on Sunday.

ISIS redrew the map of the Middle East in 2014 when it declared a "caliphate" across large areas of Syria and Iraq.

Before the assault began at sunset on Saturday, civilians could be seen fleeing the town. Trump said last week he had been told that the full territorial conquest to defeat the Islamic State could be completed in the coming week.

The SDF launched an offensive on Saturday attempting to expel about 600 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS) fighters from a 4-square-kilometre area in Baghouz village, near the Iraqi border on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River.

The source said both Turkey and the US agreed that the process has gathered momentum.

It is also unclear whether the United States will be able to satisfy the security concerns in Syria of its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey without sacrificing the interests of US -backed Kurdish fighters there.

As the SDF closed in, there were reports that two Canadian women and their children who had been living in the ISIS-controlled area had surrendered to the US -backed forces, CNN and CBC reported Sunday. "The sticking point between us and the U.S.is [their] choice of allies". On Wednesday, the Senate voted to include a nonbinding amendment in a foreign policy bill that condemned the "precipitous" withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan, where Trump is also seeking to downsize United States military presence.

In recent weeks, US officials have said IS has lost 99.5 percent of its territory and is holding on to under 5 square kilometers (under 2 square miles), where most of the fighters are concentrated in Syria.

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