Photo Essay: Civilians Flee from ISIS's Last Remaining Syrian Territory
The fight to clear ISIS from its Syrian territory is nearly over. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have declared they are in the process of eliminating the last remaining pockets of ISIS resistance south of the town of Baghuz, having retaken Baghuz itself from the extremist organization on Tuesday.
A Navanti researcher covering the battle against ISIS, in his capacity as a journalist, captured scenes earlier this month of a caravan of civilians fleeing from Baghuz, located in the eastern desert province of Deir al-Zour.
Up to 20,000 women and children have been evacuated from Baghuz since the beginning of the operation to capture the town in March, and brought to the al-Hawl IDP camp, while several thousand men who surrendered were taken to detention centers operated by the SDF.
The question of what to do with ISIS families and children has vexed foreign capitals. European governments have resisted repatriating hundreds of their nationals who joined the extremist organization’s ranks, as well as their families. To date, Russia, Sudan, Lebanon, and Indonesia are some of the few countries that have allowed ISIS fighters to return.
For now, the SDF has turned its attention to a strip of territory south of Baghuz where ISIS holdouts are stationed. The SDF’s leadership has reportedly warned that clearing ISIS from this area will not mean victory against the organization, which is moving underground and transitioning from state-building to conducting insurgency-style warfare.