Evacuation trucks enter Baghouz, last IS enclave in Syria, amid concern for civilians

Evacuation trucks enter Baghouz, last IS enclave in Syria, amid concern for civilians
Trucks have entered the village of Baghouz, where IS militants are making their last stand against US-backed Kurdish Syrian forces, in an attempt to evacuate civilians.
2 min read
19 February, 2019
SDF fighters take a rest in the front-line Syrian village of Baghouz [AFP/Getty Images]

Evacuation trucks have entered the last enclave of Islamic State in eastern Syria, a source in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told Reuters.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the entrance of trucks to the IS-held area for the purpose of evacuation, putting the number of trucks at around 50.  

Rescuing the civilians trapped in the village of Baghouz and isolating the militants who remain there is essential to defeating IS and capturing the area, the SDF earlier said.

The UN human rights chief just hours earlier expressed concern for the 200 families trapped in Baghouz.

Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that IS militants are actively preventing civilians, including women and children, from leaving the tiny area currently besieged by the Kurdish-led SDF.  

There have been reports of IS militants using civilians as human shields.

A ceasefire between IS and the SDF has been holding for four days, a correspondent from The New Arab reported from the front line of the siege on Tuesday, describing the situation as calm.

IS released 10 SDF fighters on Sunday, after which the SDF permitted trucks of foods to enter Baghouz.  

One SDF fighter told The New Arab he hopes for the release of his cousin, an SDF fighter currently held by IS, in an exchange similar to the one that occurred over the weekend.

The 300 militants, who are mixed in with hundreds of civilians, are refusing to surrender as they attempt to negotiate an exit.

Thousands of Baghouz residents fled into SDF areas last week as clashes between the SDF and IS, as well as coalition bombing, led to the death of civilians.

Those who remain trapped in Baghouz face appalling conditions. One women whose family was killed was forced to give birth in a hole after tents flooded, The New Arab was told.

The leader of the IS group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi allegedly remains in a small area in Deir az-Zour with five of his inner circle, an Iraqi security source told Petra, a Jordanian news agency.