IS blocks civilian escape from its last Syria hold-out

IS blocks civilian escape from its last Syria hold-out
IS fighters have blocked roads leading out of the last village under its control in eastern Syria.
2 min read
17 February, 2019
SDF fighters have been looking to recapture IS' last Syrian enclave [Getty]
Islamic State group fighters have forced hundreds of civilians trapped in its last Syrian enclave to act as human shields in its final battle against US-backed forces, it was reported on Sunday.

Die-hard jihadi fighters are making a last stand in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz, with a Syrian Democratic Forces offensive slowed down to allow thousands of civilians to escape the IS pocket of territory.

Now fighters have blocked roads to prevent an escape of civilians, which include family members of the IS contingent.

"It's been two days since anyone came out," an SDF fighter told AFP.

SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said that IS had "sealed off all the streets" to prevent civilians escaping to safety, with perhaps 2,000 trapped in the Baghouz pocket.

He added that IS were confined to just a "few hundred metres square... with a number of civilians they hold hostage and refuse to release".

Sean Ryan, spokesperson for the US-led coalition against IS, confirmed that the jihadis were holding human shields.

"Civilians who have escaped are reporting [IS] is using them as human shields and killing innocent civilians in order to intimidate others from trying to leave," he said.

SDF commanders have had to slow its offensive on the last IS pockets close to the Syrian border due to dangers of civilian casualties

US President Donald Trump has for weeks claimed that the defeat of IS war just hours or days away, but the use of human shields has forced SDF fighters to cease fire.

Trump is eager to declare a victory against IS so he call pull the 2,000 troops out of Syria, a pledge he made in December and which has been criticised by most security experts who warn of a new jihadi insurgency. 

Human Rights Watch have warned Trump not hasten the victory at the expense of civilian lives.

"The tempo of battle must not be dictated by political imperatives - it must first of all protect civilians and possible hostages," HRW's director of counterterrorism, Nadim Houry, told AFP.