Battle of Baghuz Fawqani

Battle of Baghuz Fawqani
Part of the Deir ez-Zor campaign (September 2017–present), the Syrian Kurdish–Islamist conflict (2013–present), and the American-led intervention in the Syrian Civil War
Battle of Baghuz (2019).svg
Map of the battle
Date9 February 2019 (2019-02-09) – 23 March 2019 (2019-03-23)
(1 month and 2 weeks)
Location
34°27′37″N 40°57′13″E / 34°27′37″N 40°57′13″E / 34.46028; 40.95361
Result

Major SDF victory

  • The SDF captures 3.5 out of 4 square kilometers of the enclave within the first week, before halting operations after 12 February, due to civilian evacuations
  • The SDF launches the second assault on 1 March, but pauses the operation again on 4 March[2]
  • The SDF launches the third assault on 10 March
  • ISIL's "tent city", the heart of the ISIL enclave, is captured by the SDF on 19 March[3]
  • SDF declares victory on 23 March after asserting control of the pocket
Belligerents

Syrian Democratic Forces
International Freedom Battalion
CJTF–OIR

 Iraq (cross border)


 Syria[1]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Commanders and leaders
Mazlum Kobane
(SDF commander in chief)
Jiya Furat[4]
(SDF commander for Battle of Baghuz)
Ahmad Abu Khawla[5]
(Deir ez-Zor Military Council commander)
Mustafa Manbij[6][7]
(Manbij Revolutionaries Battalion commander)
Abu Ali Bard [8]
(Army of Revolutionaries Commander)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi[9]
(Leader of ISIL)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Khaled Al-Ansari [10]
(Senior ISIL commander)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Ahmed Jamil al-Sayed [11]
(ISIL commander)
Units involved

Syrian Democratic Forces

International Freedom Battalion

United States United States Armed Forces

France French Armed Forces

United Kingdom British Armed Forces

Iraq Iraqi security forces[19]

Syria Syrian Arab Army

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Military of ISIL
Strength

15,000 fighters[21][22]
Coalition: air support, artillery and special forces

3,000–5,000+ fighters[28][3]
Casualties and losses
65 killed (per SOHR)[29]

259 killed,[30] 4,050 captured (per SOHR)[31]

311 killed,[32] 5,000+ captured (per SDF)[3][33]
216 civilians killed by airstrikes (SOHR)[34][35]
Italian photographer wounded[36]
Al-Baghuz Fawqani is located in Syria
Al-Baghuz Fawqani
Al-Baghuz Fawqani
Location of Al-Baghuz Fawqani along the Euphrates River

The Battle of Baghuz Fawqani was an offensive by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), assisted by American-led coalition airstrikes, artillery, and special forces personnel, 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 regarded as the territorial last stand of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in eastern Syria.[37][38]

After encircling the Islamic State into a densely populated cluster of hamlets and a tent city along the riverside within the first week, the SDF acknowledged that a greater than anticipated number of civilians, mostly relatives of the mostly foreign ISIL fighters, was still in the enclave. With Coalition oversight, the SDF took an incremental approach to the battle, launching fierce 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, fanatical resistance by veteran ISIL jihadists within a small but dense area, prolonged the battle into a protracted siege.[39] The SDF officially declared final victory over the Islamic State in Baghuz Fawqani on 23 March.[40]

Background

Since September 2017, the Syrian Democratic Forces had been on a campaign to wrest territorial control from the Islamic State terror group in eastern Syria. The SDF's advances were supported by American, British and French forces from the CJTF-OIR Coalition via close air support, French and American artillery, and American special forces assistance and oversight. The SDF launched its third and final phase of their campaign in September 2018, gradually capturing the remaining ISIL pocket of territory straddling the Euphrates river near the Iraq-Syria border.[41] By 1 February 2019, ISIL was reduced to four square kilometers of territory, boxed in against the river with the SDF advancing from the northwest, Syrian government forces blocking river crossings, and Iraqi forces deployed to prevent cross-border infiltrations. The massive exodus of civilians complicated advances, with the SDF pausing its advance for almost 10 days prior to the battle.[42] Within the 10 days preceding the battle, over 20,000 civilians fled the enclave.[43][44] The SDF stated that a number of foreign hostages, including missing British journalist John Cantlie and the kidnapped Italian Jesuit priest Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, were possibly being held in the enclave.[45]

On 9 February 2019, France's Defense minister Florence Parly visited Firebase Saham, a joint French-U.S. artillery fire support base near Al-Qa'im, Iraq, that supported the SDF's anti-ISIL campaign. Meeting with French forces there, Parly told them not to be distracted and that France "is determined to complete this fight against those who have struck her," referring to terror attacks in France in recent years conducted by ISIL loyalists.[46]

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