Backed Syria force announces final push against IS

Islamic State chief escapes death as his fighters turn on him: report

Balli said the battle aims to eliminate all remaining IS militants in Baghouz.

An SDF statement said the offensive was focused on the village of Baghouz.

The besieged Islamic State enclave centered around Baghouz on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River represents the jihadist group's last territorial foothold in the part of Syria where the US -backed forces have been fighting it.

Kurdish authorities say they have in their custody hundreds of foreign male IS members.

After weeks of advancing steadily, the SDF halted their ground assault on ISIS's tiny remaining enclave.

SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told AFP that "the battle has started", following the week-long pause in fighting.

But a top US general said on Tuesday the group would pose an enduring threat following the USA withdrawal, as it retained leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources that would fuel a menacing insurgency.

Nobody here wants to predict yet when that end will come, but ISIS as a territorial force has entered it's final days.

At its height, the jihadist proto-state proclaimed by IS in June 2014 straddled swathes of land in Syria and Iraq and was roughly the size of Britain.

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"They are attempting to escape through intermixing with the innocent women and children attempting to flee the fighting", coalition deputy commander Christopher Ghika said on Thursday.

The Observatory said 12 IS gunmen attacked the SDF and clashed with them for several hours until most of the attackers were killed early Saturday.

The country's Kurds have largely stayed out of the conflict, instead developing semi-autonomous institutions in parts of the country's northeast under their control.

The Britain-based war monitor has said that figure includes some 3,200 suspected jihadis.

It said the USA -led coalition struck positions of the IS in the eastern Euphrates to practice more pressure on the group.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have formed the backbone of the US-backed SDF, but neighbouring Turkey sees them as "terrorists".

The U.S. military presence in Syria has offered the Kurds a measure of protection against any Turkish offensive.

The December announcement of a U.S. troop pullout from Syria has seen Kurdish authorities scrambling to mend fences with the regime in Damascus.

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