The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an assault on Baghuz (Deir Al-Zor province) at approximately 18:00 (local time) on Friday, March 1, following the evacuation of thousands of civilians from the town. Baghuz is the last town controlled by the Islamic State (IS) group in eastern Syria.
Heavy fighting between SDF fighters and remaining IS militants holed up in the Baghuz area is to be expected over the coming days.
IS has lost most of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria after suffering major military defeats following its 2014 offensive. A military victory for SDF forces over IS militants in Baghuz would mark the jihadist group's effective territorial defeat in eastern Syria, though IS retains control over some desert areas west of the Euphrates River.
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 the jihadist group's control, notably including Raqqa, Al-Tabqah, and Manbij.
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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