‘Heavy clashes’ as US-backed forces battle IS in Syria: monitor

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The oil- and natural gas-rich Deir al-Zor governorate in eastern Syria has been contested between the Syrian government and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and it also contains a few pockets of the remnants of the Islamic State militants alongside both eastern and western banks of the Euphrates River.

On Saturday, Bali said he expected the battle for the last patch of territory held by Daesh to be over in days. While the bounty doesn't explicitly reveal the reason why the veteran foreign terrorist fighter has fallen in disfavour, intelligence officials, cited by The Guardian, suggest that he led the unsuccessful coup attempt aimed against the leader, Sputnk says.

Islamic State is far from defeated, and instead is morphing into an asymmetrical warfare force after the militant group lost nearly all of the territory it once controlled in Syria, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.

Syrian opposition activists say Islamic State militants have attacked US -backed fighters near an oil field in the country's east, triggering airstrikes by the USA -led coalition.

At its peak in 2014, IS established a "caliphate" stretching across Syria and Iraq that was similar in size to the United Kingdom and ruled over more than 7.7 million people.

SDF officials say some 1,500 civilians could still be inside.

Bali told AFP that around 600 IS fighters are still inside the pocket, a lot of them die-hard foreign fighers.

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The group, however, retains a presence in Syria's vast Badia desert, and has claimed a series of deadly attacks by sleeper cells in SDF-held areas.

They have urged Western governments to repatriate their nationals, but politicians overseas have been reluctant.

On the Iraqi side of the border, French troops were poised to attack, lest any jihadists try to escape across the border they once bulldozed through easily.

Kurdish-led forces spearheading the offensive have paused operations but US President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that a final declaration of victory would come next week. On Wednesday, the Senate voted to include a nonbinding amendment in a foreign policy bill that condemned the "precipitous" withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan, where Trump is also seeking to downsize USA military presence. It comes after more than 20,000 civilians were allowed to flee the area over the past two weeks, many of them suspected fighters or the wives and children of fighters. "The fact that we didn't capture any high-ranking ISIS members means they were elsewhere", Bali noted.

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 regime has made a military comeback with Russian military support since 2015, and now holds nearly two-thirds of Syria.

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