Near Baghouz (Syria): Syrian fighters backed by artillery fire from a US-led coalition battled a fierce jihadist counteroffensive as they pushed to retake a last morsel of territory from the Islamic State group in an assault lasting days.
A war monitor said a coalition air strike killed 16 civilians including seven children trying to flee the holdout on Monday, but the US-led alliance was not immediately available for comment.
More than four years after the extremists declared a “caliphate” across large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, several offensives have whittled that down to a tiny scrap of land in eastern Syria.
The final push to expel hundreds of diehard jihadists from that patch on the Iraq border was announced on Saturday by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
On Monday, the US-led coalition maintained a steady beat of bombings on the area as the SDF faced ferocious resistance.
The sound of explosions echoed dozens of kilometres away and columns of dark grey smoke could be seen from SDF territory.
“Heavy clashes are ongoing to pressure IS into surrendering,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, chief of Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory said 12 SDF fighters and 19 jihadists were killed in the fighting on Monday.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said the force responded after IS launched a counterattack earlier in the day. He also said there were “dozens of SDF hostages held by IS” inside their last foothold, but denied reports of executions....