Kurdish-led fighters overran the last village held by ISIS in eastern Syria on Wednesday, confining the militants to two small hamlets, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It is the culmination of a broad offensive launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces last September with US-led coalition support in which they have reduced the militants’ last enclave on the north bank of the Euphrates valley near the Iraqi border to a tiny rump.
The capture of the village of Baghouz leaves the few remaining diehard ISIS extremists holed up in scattered homesteads among the irrigated fields and orchards on the north bank of the Euphrates Valley.
“Search operations are continuing in Baghouz to find any ISIS militants who are still hiding,” the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Presse.
“The SDF will now have to push on into the farmland around Baghouz.”
“Around 4,900 people, mostly women and children but including 470 ISIS militants, have fled the group’s fast dwindling enclave since Monday, Abdel Rahman said late on Tuesday.
Of those 3,500 surrendered to the advancing SDF on Tuesday alone.
They were evacuated on dozens of trucks chartered by the SDF.
The fall of Baghouz follows the SDF’s capture of the enclave’s sole town of Hajin and the villages of Al-Shaafa and Sousa in recent weeks.
The new wave of departures means that nearly 27,000 people have left former ISIS areas since early December, including almost 1,800 militants who have surrendered, the Observatory said.
The gains have come at the cost of heavy losses for the mainly Kurdish fighters of the SDF and despite their sense of betrayal by their US ally after President Donald Trump made the surprise announcement last month that Washington would withdraw all its troops.
Neighboring Turkey has threatened repeatedly to launch a cross-border operation to crush the Kurdish fighters and the autonomous region they have set up in areas of northern and northeastern Syria under their control.