U.S.-backed fighters in Syria have launched an offensive to retake Baghouz, the last terrority held by the Islamic State. After a two-week pause in fighting to allow civilians to evacuate the area, the fighting resumed on Friday with an advance by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by U.S. airpower.
Heavy fighting was reported over the weekend, as U.S.-backed forces pounded the ISIS militants in Baghouz with artillery and airstrikes. ISIS fighters, desperate to hold onto their last ground, have responded with sniper-fire, booby traps, suicide bombings, and have been using civilians as human shields.
Due to the report of the Islamic State fighters using civilians as human shields, the offensive slowed on Monday to allow more civilians to evacuate the area. Large numbers of civilians have continued to leave Baghouz on Monday and a large number of ISIS fighters have surrendered.
Retaking the area around Baghouz would be a milestone in the four-year campaign to end the Islamic State caliphate that once controlled large areas across Syria and Iraq.
There have been reports on social media that the U.S.-led coalition is using white phosphorous during the offensive and that a number of civilians have been killed, but these reports have not been confirmed. Footage posted on Twitter showed heavy nighttime fighting and explosions in Baghouz.
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the joint task force set up by U.S. Central Command to coordinate military efforts against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, has not yet released a statement on the latest fighting in Baghouz.