YPG members of the SDF look out over the Euphrates River in Deir ez-Zor. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Violent clashes marked the first day of the latest phase of Operation Roundup – the SDF and coalition operation against ISIS in Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zor province – as militants strike SDF and Syrian regime forces.
ISIS militants attacked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in al-Baghuz village on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
There were casualties on both sides, according to the UK-based conflict monitor.
Al-Baghuz village is located on the east banks of the Euphrates River, less than a kilometre from the border with Iraq. The village is under the control of the SDF who had advanced on the area last November. It is one of a string of villages and towns along the river where SDF with coalition forces and those loyal to the Syrian regime combat ISIS on frontlines separated by the Euphrates.
The first phase of Operation Roundup, which began on May 1, “ended with the clearance of Baghuz” on May 15, the coalition said in a statement on Sunday announcing the commencement of phase two, the goal of which is to clear the al-Dashisha pocket along the Syria-Iraq border.
Iraqi forces are taking part with cross-border air and artillery strikes, the coalition added.
“This is a well-coordinated, powerful offensive to annihilate Daesh [ISIS] remnants in northeastern Syria,” said coalition commander Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II.
“Our partners are aggressively taking the fight to what’s left of Daesh’s conventional force, which has been demoralized by military losses and its leadership’s abandonment of the terrorists they left on the front lines,” he added.
SDF commander Kino Gabriel said they have observed a change in tactics by ISIS under pressure on multiple fronts.
“We are seeing ISIS resort to guerrilla-warfare tactics as they struggle and flee in the areas of conflict,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Thirty kilometres upstream of al-Baghuz, the Observatory reported on Sunday that fighting had paused in Hajin as the SDF and coalition were unable to break into the town where ISIS had “desperately fought to repel the attack.”
The Observatory noted that coalition forces were concentrating on the Dashisha area on the border and southern Hasaka province.
The Syrian army also clashed with ISIS fighters in the Hajin area on Sunday, SANA news reported. They army thwarted an infiltration attempt by ISIS, the state-run media agency said.