Islamic State (IS) militants reportedly launched an attack on US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters near Hajin (Deir al-Zor province) on Friday, December 21. Dozens of militants reportedly attacked SDF positions near Abu Khaser village with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs); US-backed anti-IS coalition forces responded with airstrikes on IS militants. SDF sources reported that fighting is ongoing in the area. Violent clashes between IS and SDF fighters are expected to continue near Hajin over the coming weeks.
The attack notably comes after US President Donald Trump announced the US's intent to withdraw US troops from Syria. The US Department of Defense and White House staff confirmed the decision, though it is unclear how many troops, if any, will remain in the northeastern part of the country and how long the withdrawal process will take.
The SDF is a US-backed umbrella group of militias, led by the primarily Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), and a belligerent in the Syrian Civil War. The SDF has ousted IS from several areas formerly under its control, notably including Raqqa, Al-Tabqah, and Manbij. IS has lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria after suffering major military defeats following its 2014 offensive.
To date, the Syrian Civil War - which began in 2011 - involves many parties, including the Syrian government, the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Turkish government, a US-led coalition, and numerous armed groups on the ground (including the Islamic State) with competing goals.
Due to extremely poor security conditions, Western governments generally advise against all travel to Syria, with some banning travel to the country. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to any travel to Syria.
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