A US-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters said on Sunday that it will resume a military campaign against ISIS militants in eastern Syria, after temporarily halting operations more than ten days ago.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by US-coalition warplanes, launched an offensive against the last major militant holdout in the country in September but Turkish shelling of Kurdish-held territory in Syria late last month prompted fighters to temporarily pause operations on October 31.
The SDF said in a statement on Sunday that it is resuming the anti-ISIS campaign after intensive diplomatic efforts succeeded in diffusing tensions along the Syrian-Turkish border and allowed parties to refocus efforts on the battle against ISIS in Syria’s east.
It also said that the decision comes after "intensive contacts" with the US-led coalition, which has intensified airstrikes on the militant-controlled Hajin pocket in recent weeks’ despite the pause.
Earlier on Saturday, Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, said on Twitter that coalition forces are preparing “to accelerate operations in east Syria.”
Colonel Sean Ryan, the coalition's spokesman said that coalition forces on Friday successfully struck and destroyed an ISIS observation post and staging area in the Hajin pocket. He said on Twitter that the area was void of civilians but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claims that Friday’s airstrikes killed more than 33 people, mostly wives and children of ISIS fighters.
More than 600 ISIS militants and nearly 350 SDF fighters have reportedly been killed in clashes since September, the SOHR said on Sunday. The monitoring group also claimed that more than 120 civilians, mostly children and wives of ISIS fighters, have been killed in attacks by the SDF and the US-led coalition on the Hajin pocket over that same period.
The Hajin enclave is the last significant remnant of ISIS’s so-called caliphate which militants announced in 2014. The rest has all been lost to offensives by multiple alliances in both Syria and Iraq.
Outside the Hajin enclave, the group's operations are confined to sleeper cells and to hideouts in unpopulated desert and mountain areas.