US-backed Kurdish force advances against IS in eastern Syria

US-backed Kurdish force advances against IS in eastern Syria
The mainly Kurdish SDF launched a new offensive in May against the Islamic State in its final holdout in eastern Syria.
2 min read
YPG fighters attend a funeral for SDF troops killed fighting the Islamic State [Getty]

US-backed fighters advanced against Islamic State militants hiding out in a small sliver of eastern Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been fighting the hardline group in a patch of desert along the Euphrates Rive since 1 May. 

On Monday, SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel told AFP the forces were securing the village of Baghuz, captured after overnight clashes and the first to be seized since the operation began.

"It is now being cleared of anything left behind by Daesh, including mines, and we are looking for any IS members hiding in tunnels or other locations," Gabriel said.

"We will set up defensive positions so that we can completely surround Daesh along the Euphrates River," he said.

Gabriel said the operation was carried out in coordination with Iraqi government forces and the US-led coalition fighting the group.

Baghuz lies a few hundred metres from the Iraqi border.

The SDF has already driven the Islamic State out of large swathes of northern and eastern Syria, including its onetime capital Raqqa. 

At the beginning of May, the SDF announced it would pursue the Islamic State in its final desert holdout in east Syria between the Euphrates and the Iraqi border.

It has already cleared around 40 square miles since then, the coalition said on social media.

After several months of relatively few air strikes in Syria, the US ramped up its bombing raids to coincide with the SDF's May ground operations.

On Monday, 18 Islamic State fighters were also killed in coalition strikes in the nearby Al-Bahra, a village north of Baghuz.

The Islamic State still controls three villages in the area: Hajjin, Sousa and Al-Shaafa. 

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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