Islamic State (IS) fighters are nearing military defeat in Baghuz (Deir Al-Zor province) as of Wednesday, February 20. Some 2000 civilians have left the village ahead of an expected offensive by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that aims to rout the estimated remaining 300 IS fighters surrounded in the village. Though SDF officials are reportedly confirming the names of civilians leaving the area, it is uncertain if IS militants have fled Baghuz with civilians. Officials affiliated with Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) have received unconfirmed reports of IS fighters surrendering in the Middle Euphrates River Valley (MERV), but assert that "the most hardened ISIS fighters still remain in Baghuz."
Heavy fighting between SDF fighters and remaining IS militants is to be expected around Baghuz over the coming days.
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.
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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