The Syrian Democratic Forces continued its advance into the center of Hajin, raising expectations it would soon oust Islamic State fighters from one of their last pockets of territory in northern Syria, the U.S.-led Coalition and an SDF spokesperson said on Friday, November 14.
“The progress in the [Middle Euphrates River Valley] is going very well and the SDF continues to advance into the center of Hajin city and to the outskirts,” CJTF-OIR spokesperson Colonel Sean Ryan told The Defense Post.
Earlier, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that the operation to capture Hajin had finished just before dawn on Friday.
“ISIS still poses a threat and are using small pockets of fighters to counter SDF offensives and emplacing IED’s to slow progress. The End of Days for ISIS in the MERV is getting closer to reality, however, they still have the capability for coordinated attacks.”
The SDF Media Center said in a statement on Friday that the Coalition carried out 19 airstrikes on the previous day as “intermittent engagements continued until late at night.”
On Thursday, SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali said the “SDF liberated central Hajin from [ISIS] as the fight nears its conclusion.”
“Hajin ops continues till achieve it’s mission,” Bali tweeted on Friday.
The SDF launched the offensive to take Hajin from ISIS on September 10.
Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a journalist based in Syria who has closely covered the SDF offensive, noted that ISIS still occupies a number of towns and villages around Hajin.
“Even if Hajin is finished … the battle could still take some months,” he said.
ISIS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in 2014 across swathes of Syria and Iraq, but various separate offensives by the national armies of both countries, Kurdish forces and international backers have seen the jihadists’ territory shrink dramatically.
In Syria, ISIS controls a small area of Deir Ezzor province as well as some territory in the south. At Tanf, near the Jordanian border, remaining ISIS fighters face the Coalition-backed Maghawir al-Thowra force.
The SDF is battling ISIS on the eastern side of the Euphrates River in Deir Ezzor while Syrian regime troops backed by Russia battle them west of the river.
The SDF, founded in October 2015, has been backed by Coalition air and artillery strikes, and special forces advisers. The force, which includes includes Kurdish, Arab and other fighters, ousted ISIS from swathes of Syria’s north last year, including from their main bastion Raqqa.