Hundreds leave ISIS-held area in Syria as fighting slows down

IS families defiant, but defeated in Syria

Syrian regime and IS fighters clash in eastern desert

"A large number of Daesh jihadists surrendered to our forces among the same group overnight", Bali wrote on Twitter, using an Arabic acronym for the hardline Islamist group.

Shortly before sunset, more than 20 trucks, usually used to transport animals, emerged from the IS-held area, carrying men, women and children.

"Slowing the offensive in Baghouz yesterday, we managed to evacuate about 3,000 [people]". One woman said she saw a man hit by a missile as she was escaping from one tent to another.

"Everything happens outdoors, there are no houses anymore, everybody lives outside, which is not surprising because we were being bombarded day and night", she said.

An airstrike followed but it was not exactly clear what it targeted. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorised to speak to the press.

Mr Bali said "we're slowing down the offensive" due to a small number of civilians held as human shields.

The U.S. -backed SDF began their final assault on the last remnant of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate late Friday, surrounding the village of Baghuz with about 15,000 troops and with the backing of U.S. and coalition airpower.

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Over the past three weeks, they secured the evacuation of more than 10,000 of their exhausted and wounded followers from the Syrian village of Baghouz, looking to ensure long-term survival and continued conflict.

On Wednesday, a group of women seen at a reception area set up in the desert, where they were screened by SDF officials, were rowdy, aggressive and defiant, praising the Islamic State group and screaming angrily at journalists.

The recapture of Baghouz would mark the end of ISIS' territorial control and its so-called "caliphate", which once covered large swaths of Iraq and Syria - an expanse about the size of Portugal.

"In order not to harm them, we are advancing slowly but we assert that the battle of Baghouz will end in a short period of time", it said.

The fighting in the Al Sukhna - between the historical city of Palmyra and the eastern border city of Deir Ezzor - highlights the fact that although worldwide forces are poised for the final assault on the remaining pocket of territory held by the militant group east of the Euphrates river, the threat from ISIS endures.

One official with the YPG, a Kurdish militia that has supported the US -backed offensive on Baghuz, told VOA numerous fighters and family members came from Central Asian countries, such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

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