US Army 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division fire an M777A2 howitzer Western Iraq, Feb 06, 2019 Op Inherent Resolve (DVIDS, 2019)

Islamic State’s Last Stand: Battle for Baghuz

ISIS Human Shield Slows SDF Advance in Al-Baghuz Fawqani

As the Islamic State makes its last stand in Al-Baghuz Fawqani in Eastern Syria, reports have emerged that the terrorist group is using civilians as a human shield to slow the advance of the Syrian Democartic Forces (SDF).

By using snipers, suicide bombers and civilians as human shields, the Islamic State has slowed the SDF’s advance on the terror group’s last scrap of territory in the town of Baghuz . The SDF have confirmed that most civilians have already left Baghuz, but a number remain trapped in the town by IS.

SDF spokeswoman Lilwa Abdullah said “We don’t have an estimate of how many civilians are still inside Baghuz.”

According to the SDF, Islamic State fighters have increased counter-attacks against the SDF, reporting the use of suicide bombers, explosive-laden vehicles and tunnels.

SDF media officer ‘Mervan Rojava’ said “This is something that [the Islamic State] have done in previous battles, too, but this time it is challenging for them because they have nowhere else to go.” The Islamic State is believed to control less than 2 square kilometers of Baghuz.

“All the tunnels they have dug for a moment like this aren’t really useful because they control a very small patch of territory. But they are taking advantage of sending a large number of suicide bombers toward us,” Rojava said.

The Islamic State has been increasingly using snipers to slow down the attack on the terror group. One SDF fighter was wounded by an IS sniper who was hiding behind a child, the SDF reported on Monday. “Our comrades were closing in on a building when one of [the Islamic State’s] snipers targeted one of our comrades in the vehicle,” said an anonymous SDF fighter.

Another SDF fighter said that coalition warplanes could not hit Islamic State targets inside Baghuz because of the danger to women and children being held there. “They are hiding among those women and children. How can warplanes target them? Civilians would die if they targeted [IS],” said the SDF fighter.

In March, at least 164 Islamic State fighters have been killed, according to SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali speaking on local radio station Arta FM on Monday. Bali also reported that four SDF fighters had been killed in recent clashes with the Islamic State.

The coalition may be close to victory in Baghuz, but some local leaders are concerned that this will not be the end of ISIS.

Prominent tribal and provincial leader Sheikh Humaydi Daham al-Hadi warned that without negotiations, education and reconstruction, this victory may ultimately lead to more widespread violence.

“The battle will end temporarily,” said Sheikh Humaydi Daham al-Hadi, “But the negative impact will continue for years.”

And as the civil war’s eighth year nears an end, the future of the region is increasingly insecure. International conflicts are on the verge of playing out in northeastern Syria, and its semi-autonomous government does not have the size or the resources to secure every road and town.

“Individual attacks are more dangerous than comprehensive attacks,” the sheikh warned. “At least when you are attacked by a group, you know who the enemy is.”

Source: VOA

Image: US Army soldiers assigned to the 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division fire an M777A2 howitzer during a fire mission in Western Iraq, Feb. 06, 2019. These Soldiers deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces to defeat ISIS in areas of Iraq and Syria. US Army photograph by Spc. Eric Cerami.