Extremists defending their last bastion in eastern Syria used the cover of bad weather to launch a deadly counterattack against a Kurdish-led force, a war monitor said Tuesday.
The ISIS terrorist group was unable to hold on to the positions they attacked but the assault killed 23 members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and also left nine militants dead.
ISIS fighters took advantage of poor visibility to unleash suicide attackers on SDF forces along the front line in the Euphrates valley late on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Twenty-three SDF fighters were killed and nine ISIS militants were also killed in fighting that lasted all night and into Monday morning,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The terrorists often launch attacks under the cover of bad weather that cancels out their opponents’ advantage of US-led coalition air power.
The SDF launched what is meant to be the final offensive on the jihadist organization four months ago with air and ground support from coalition forces.
The Kurdish-Arab alliance has deployed some 17,000 fighters for an operation aimed at clearing out ISIS from the last rump of its now-defunct “caliphate”.
ISIS fighters “launched deadly counterattacks in three different directions against the Syrian Democratic Forces, including in the villages of Sousa and Al-Shaafa,” Abdel Rahman said.
He said they used at least two suicide bombers in their attacks, which inflicted the latest in a string of heavy losses on the SDF.
According to the Observatory, 1,087 ISIS extremists were killed since the start of the operation on Sep 10 while 602 members of the SDF also died.
“On Monday morning, the SDF launched an offensive and retook all the positions they lost,” the Observatory said.
“Due to its depleted manpower, ISIS was unable to hold on to the positions it attacked,” it said.
Abdel Rahman said the extremists’ defenses in the area have collapsed and the end of the battle is near.
The fighting in eastern Syria demonstrates the threat still posed by ISIS despite claims by US President Donald Trump the group has been defeated. The claims were challenged by his national security advisers and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and the top US official in the coalition against ISIS. Trump said last month he was bringing home the some US 2,000 troops in Syria, saying they had succeeded in their mission to defeat the terrorist organization.
Over the weekend, US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the US pullout would not be as immediate as Trump had initially declared.
AS SHARQ AL AWSAT