Islamic State cornered in Baghouz as final battle continues
Kurdish-led forces closed in on the last Islamic State stronghold in Baghouz, Syria. Meanwhile, reports confirmed the use of chlorine in a 2018 attack on Douma, attributed to Bachar al-Assad by Western powers.
Kurdish-led forces on Friday launched a final assault against diehard jihadist fighters clinging to the last sliver of their "caliphate" in eastern Syria.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they resumed their advance after plucking a last batch of civilians from the tiny riverside hamlet of Baghouz where jihadists are holed up.
The offensive on a redoubt barely half a square kilometre in size will cap a nearly six-month operation against the Islamic State group's last bastions in the Euphrates Valley.
Baghouz - the last stronghold
An unknown number of IS fighters are holding out in a small area on the edge of Baghouz for a desperate final stand against the SDF.
SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said the decision to resume the push came after the evacuation of the last civilians willing to leave the enclave and following the release of captured SDF fighters.
"The people we evacuated today told us that no civilians were inside and that those still inside did not want to leave," he told AFP in the nearby base of Al-Omar.
He declined to comment on how long the last phase of the offensive might take but the SDF's general commander Mazloum Kobani said Thursday he expected final victory to be achieved within a week.
Islamic State retaining men under 40, local source says
At an SDF screening point 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Baghouz, an Egyptian woman told AFP that IS was preventing men under 40 from quitting the redoubt, including her 27-year-old husband, ahead of a final battle.
Nearby, the SDF patted men down and searched their belongings.
With aerial backing from the US-led coalition, IS fighters who have been besieged for weeks are unlikely to resist very long.
Chlorine used in 2018 Douma attack, Ccemical weapons watchdog confirms
Meanwhile, the world's chemical weapons watchdog said Friday that chlorine was used against the rebel-held Syrian town of Douma in 2018, in a long-awaited final report on the deadly attack.
The report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was based on a visit by inspectors to the site of the attack which witnesses said killed 43 people.
Western powers led by the United States blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the incident and unleashed air strikes on military installations in response.
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