Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces attend the funeral of a fellow fighter, who was killed while fighting ISIS in northern Syria on January 18, 2019. Photo: Delil Souleiman | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured strategic upper al-Baghouz town from ISIS fighters, effectively isolating the Syrian-Iraqi border from the extremists.
The predominately-Kurdish SDF established "full control" over al-Baghouz Fowqani town. It was the last town ISIS held in Syria that touches the Iraqi border and is located on the eastern bank of the Euphrates across from al-Boukamal. The area is known as the "Hajin pocket."
"The Syrian Observatory observed a large collapse in the ranks of the organization's militants," it added, referring to ISIS.
About 5,100 people have fled the pocket to SDF "safe areas" in the last 36 hours according to SOHR. Some 500 of those were said to be ISIS fighters.
There were additional open-sourced reports of the Iraqi Army shelling ISIS positions in Syria from north of al-Qaim.
SDF said in a statement that its operations continue east of the Euphrates. With the Euphrates behind them to the southeast, the SDF have pinched ISIS into a roughly crescent-shape less than about 30 square-kilometers in area.
If SDF takes control of the remaining villages and compounds ISIS will be completely defeated militarily east of the Euphrates in Iraq and Syria.
Further north in al-Sousa, ISIS launched a counter-attack, according to the SDF. However, the anti-ISIS forces reported they liberated adjacent Mouzan village.
SDF added they were supported by dozens of US-led international coalition air strikes in the battles in Syria's eastern Deir ez-Zor province.
The SDF have pledged to defeat ISIS even as US President Donald Trump has announced plans to pull his forces from the country. His decision has been slammed by his former envoy to the coalition, Brett McGurk.
Coalition forces and their partnered local forces have been successfully targeted twice in the past week in "liberated" areas of northern Syria.