SDF Shifts from Offensive to Defensive in the Hajin Pocket
DEIR EZ-ZOR GOVERNORATE (OCTOBER 20, 2018) – With the ongoing offensive by the SDF and other Kurdish-allied factions and the US Coalition against Islamic State (IS) in the Hajin basin pocket, the Islamic State militants were able reverse certain losses in its last strides, putting the SDF in a defending situation.
In a desperate attempt by what is considered to be the last ‘territorial legs’ of the Islamic State, militants attempt to take advantage of the still-ongoing sandstorm in the area and capture land from the northern frontlines along the Euphrates River. The operation by IS fighters was partially successful in its attempts, as it was able to capture small areas of land north of the pocket. IS militants also burned oil wells behind SDF lines in Deir Ez-Zor country side earlier this week.
IS launched 5 SVBIEDs along with dozens of fighters near the town of al-Baghuz al-Fawqani. IS was able to overrun few defenses but remained unsuccessful in their attempts. SDF fighters destroyed all 5 SVBIEDs before reaching their intended target, as well as recapturing all points lost.
Among the battles, US Coalition air support is key in supporting the SDFs dispatched offensive against IS militants in the basin. US airstrikes became controversial earlier this week when one airstrike targeted Friday prayer at a mosque in As-Sousah, Deir Ez-Zor, resulting in 40+ civilians killed. There is no known information if any IS militants were killed.
SDF media centers reported 31 IS militants killed in action along the bank. IS-owned Amaq News Agency reported “dozens” of SDF and other US-backed fighters were killed in action. The immediate situation appears unclear, but it is within no doubt IS resources and numbers are being strained as the clashes move forward.