US-backed fighters seize east Syria village from ISIS

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that extremists have been expelled from the so-called Hajin pocket

TOPSHOT - This picture shows US army vehicles supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Hajin, in the Deir Ezzor province, eastern Syria, on December 15, 2018. Kurdish-led forces seized the Islamic State's main hub of Hajin on December 14, a milestone in a massive and costly US-backed operation to eradicate the jihadists from eastern Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces secured Hajin, the largest settlement in what is the last pocket of territory controlled by IS, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. / AFP / Delil SOULEIMAN
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US-backed Syrian fighters on Tuesday seized a key village from ISIS, further chipping away at their last eastern holdout on the Iraqi border, a UK monitor said.

Backed by air strikes of the US-led coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces have since September been battling to expel the jihadists from the so-called Hajin pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

In recent weeks, they have whittled it down to just a handful of villages on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River.


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On Tuesday, the Kurdish-led alliance seized the largest of these from the extremists after they fled, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

“The SDF took control of Sousa after the withdrawal of ISIS fighters to territory that remains under their control," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

That leaves ISIS battling to defend just 15 square kilometres of land, he added.

ISIS overran large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a "caliphate" in areas under their control.

But they have since lost most of that to various offensives in both countries – even if they retain a presence in Syria’s vast Badia desert, where Russia-backed regime forces have fought them.

According to the Observatory, more than 1,100 ISIS extremists have been killed since the start of the operation on September 10, while more than 600 SDF fighters have also lost their lives.

Around 360 civilians including 130 children have also been killed, the monitor said.

Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations.