Death tolls creep up in air strikes and clashes over the last four days.

US-backed YPG militants stand near a pick-up truck near Baghouz, Deir Ezzor province, Syria. February 11, 2019.
US-backed YPG militants stand near a pick-up truck near Baghouz, Deir Ezzor province, Syria. February 11, 2019. (Reuters)

The battle for Daesh's last bastion in eastern Syria entered its fifth day on Wednesday, as exhausted families left the ever-shrinking scrap of land where holdout militants have been boxed in by the YPG-dominated SDF.

Hundreds of people have fled from Baghouz, near the enclave where diehard Daesh members are making their last stand.

Daily Sabah, quoting local sources, reported at least 50 dead –mostly civilians – in coalition air strikes in the last 24 hours.

The terror group declared a cross-border 'caliphate' in Syria and Iraq in 2014, but various military campaigns have chipped its territory down to less than four square kilometres (one square mile) on the Iraqi border.

SDF declared a final push to retake the pocket of land from the militants on Saturday.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said 350 civilians had made it out of the combat zone on Tuesday.

The US-backed YPG-dominated forces on Tuesday claimed they were making "slow and methodical" progress against Daesh.

The YPG is the Syrian wing of the PKK terror organisation.

Some 40,000 people, including women and children have been killed in the more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey waged by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Booby traps

Baghouz, a village on the east bank of the Euphrates at Syria's border with Iraq, is Daesh's last territorial foothold in the US-led coalition's area of operations.

However, the group still holds land in central Syria in a remote desert area otherwise controlled by the regime. In places it lost in Syria and Iraq, Daesh was able to go to ground and has carried out deadly attacks.

Even after Baghouz is captured, there will have to be clearing operations to rid the village of explosive booby traps left behind to kill civilians, Colonel Sean J Ryan, spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation, said.

On Monday, columns of white smoke from coalition air strikes were visible and trucks crammed with fleeing civilians drove along a dusty track out of the enclave, a Reuters witness said.

Coalition air power, crucial to the YPG's advances, has levelled entire districts of towns and cities in the fight against Daesh, though it says it takes care to avoid hitting civilians.

Scores of civilians killed

On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 70 civilians had been killed and wounded by air strikes that it said struck a camp for civilians in Baghouz and that 16 civilians were killed in strikes overnight.

In letters to the United Nations, the Syrian regime condemned US-led strikes that it said killed 16 civilians in a camp in Baghouz, including women and children.

Colonel Ryan said the coalition was aware of the report and was looking into it. "The coalition continues to strike at Daesh targets whenever available," he said.

The US-backed militants launched the battle to expel Daesh from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor in September, slowly tightening the noose around Daesh militants and their families since December.

In the past two months, more than 37,000 people, mostly wives and children of Daesh fighters, have fled into YPG-held areas, the Observatory says.

That figure includes some 3,400 suspected militants detained by the YPG, according to the Britain-based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.

Prisoner swap 

Meanwhile, the Syrian regime and opposition fighters swapped prisoners as part of a peace process brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey, the Turkish government said.

"Many people who had been detained by rebel groups and by the Syrian regime have been freed" in a reciprocal and simultaneous move, Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Britain-based Observatory said each side had released 20 prisoners, with 11 women among those freed by the Syrian regime.

Russia, Iran and Turkey are working to bring about peace in Syria under what is known as the Astana process. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies