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The Battle of Baghuz Fawqani was an offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), assisted by Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) airstrikes, artillery, and special forces personnel,[47] that began on 9 February 2019 as part of the Deir ez-Zor campaign of the Syrian Civil War. The battle, composed of a series of ground assaults, took place in and around the Syrian town of Al-Baghuz Fawqani in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the Iraq–Syria border, and was the territorial last stand of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in eastern Syria.[48][49]

After corralling Islamic State forces into a densely populated cluster of hamlets and a tent city along the riverside within the first week, the SDF realised that a greater-than-anticipated number of civilians, most of whom were relatives of the what were now mostly foreign ISIL fighters, were still in the enclave. With CJTF-OIR oversight, the SDF took an incremental approach to the battle, launching assaults then pausing to allow surrendering fighters, hostages, and families to evacuate in order to minimize civilian casualties. The "trickle-out" strategy, coupled with stiff resistance by veteran Islamic State jihadists within a small dense area, prolonged the battle into a protracted siege.[50] The SDF officially declared final victory over the Islamic State in Baghuz Fawqani on 23 March, marking the end of ISIL-controlled territories in Syria.[51]

On 7 March, in regards to the evacuations, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel stated that he believed that surrendered ISIL fighters were largely "unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized," and were waiting "for the right time to resurge". "We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and toxic ideology," he added.[158] This view was supported by subsequent interviews with surrendered ISIL militants and some of their family members. By 9 March, one month into the protracted battle/stand-off, many evacuating ISIL militants and their families reportedly remained unrepentant and devoted to the "caliphate" and hoped for future "conquests".[159]

Following the battle

On 23 March, responding to the SDF's victory, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that "a major danger to our country is now eliminated, yet the threat remains and the fight against terrorist groups must cont

On 7 March, in regards to the evacuations, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel stated that he believed that surrendered ISIL fighters were largely "unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized," and were waiting "for the right time to resurge". "We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and toxic ideology," he added.[158] This view was supported by subsequent interviews with surrendered ISIL militants and some of their family members. By 9 March, one month into the protracted battle/stand-off, many evacuating ISIL militants and their families reportedly remained unrepentant and devoted to the "caliphate" and hoped for future "conquests".[159]

On 23 March, responding to the SDF's victory, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that "a major danger to our country is now eliminated, yet the threat remains and the fight against terrorist groups must continue."[51] Hours after the battle, an NBC News crew vehicle in Syria was hit by an IED, killing the local driver but not harming the rest of the news team. It was not immediately clear whether it was targeted or unexploded ordnance.[160]

On March 27 or 28, the United States Air Force dropped three bunker buster bombs on a cave held by ISIL fighters at the side of Jabal Baghuz.[161&#

On March 27 or 28, the United States Air Force dropped three bunker buster bombs on a cave held by ISIL fighters at the side of Jabal Baghuz.[161][162]

On 2 April, the SDF confirmed they were still conducting post-battle clearing operations in the Baghuz area, particularly in the vicinity of Jabal Baghuz, where scattered ISIL elements continued to offer stubborn insurgency-style resistance via extensive cave and tunnel systems.[163] These clashes continued into 22 April, when a large group of ISIL militants from Jabal Baghuz attempted to cross the Euphrates River to escape into the Syrian Desert, which was under the control of forces loyal to the Syrian government in Damascus. The Syrian Army responded by attacking the group of militants.[164]

On 5 April, about 200 ISIL prisoners at the Dêrik detention center in SDF-controlled al-Malikiyah attempted a breakout, simultaneously attacking prison guards and attempting to procure firearms. Local security forces and reinforcing SDF personnel responded quickly to the incident, along with the United States Air Force flying two fighter jets over the area as an intimidation tactic. The uprising was put down "peacefully", with no deaths reported.[165]

On 29 April, ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in a video for the first time in five years, discussing topics concerning the group, including its increasing resurgence in Libya along with the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings, stating that the attacks were revenge for the events in Baghuz Fawqani. On the events in Baghuz Fawqani itself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stated: "The battle of Baghouz is finished, but it demonstrated the barbarity and savagery of the crusader community towards the Muslim community..." while adding "There will be more to come after this battle."[166]