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Islamic State launches counter attacks at Syria enclave
15 March 2019, 11:25 | Devin Moran
‘The ISIS threat will remain,’ John Bolton says
Islamic State group fighters launched suicide attacks Wednesday at US-backed Syrian forces in a desperate bid to defend their last scrap of territory after 3,000 of their fellow jihadists surrendered.
In this edition of Beyond the Headlines, we take you to the frontlines in the fight to end ISIS.
Operations against the Islamic State "will continue until we totally wipe them out, " the Syrian Democratic Forces vowed in a statement Monday, saying their fighters had made "tangible progress" since Sunday, with 37 militants killed and five Syrian Democratic Forces fighters wounded.
Gabriel said 25 ISIS militants had been confirmed killed so far in clashes, in addition to an unknown number of militants killed by air strikes.
There were no casualties.
The official said jihadists were using suicide bombers but his force intercepted them before they reached their target.
The enclave is the last bit of territory held by ISIL soldiers who have been driven from roughly one-third of Iraq and Syria over the past four years.
The SDF said earlier its fighters advanced slowly to avoid losses and were encountering sniper fire and landmines.
The SDF has laid siege to Baghouz for weeks but has repeatedly postponed its final assault to allow thousands of civilians, many of them wives and children of Islamic State fighters, to leave.
White House national security adviser John Bolton defended President Donald Trump against claims that he prematurely declared defeat of the Islamic State.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, said the SDF command had confirmed 38 ISIS fighters had been killed.
"We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and, of course, their toxic ideology", Votel said.
The counterattack began from the west of a riverside pocket in the Syrian village of Baghouz where the Islamic State group has been making its last stand, said a commander with the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF.
A senior U.S. defense official said last week that the Syrian Democratic Forces are believed to have about 5,000 Islamic State fighters in captivity, of whom about 4,000 are Iraqis and Syrians.
Three women and four children were also rescued, he added.
By Sunday evening, no more people had come out to surrender, prompting the SDF to start its attack.
"If we had thousands of kilometers and now we only have some kilometers left, it is said we have lost - but God's judging standard is different", said a man named Abu Abdel Adheem in the video. Government forces rained incendiary bombs overnight on Idlib in the northwest, the last major area held by anti-Assad rebels, where fighting has escalated in recent weeks despite a September de-escalation agreement.
Russian warplanes struck for the first time in months the center of Idlib city, including a hospital and a prison on the outskirts from which dozens of inmates fled, residents said.
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