Thursday February 21, 2019
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Battle against Islamic State: US to give F-16 fighter jets to Iraqi forces along with 200 million dollars aid

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By Newsgram Staff Writer

With the aim to combat Islamic State in Iraq, US President Barack Obama has decided to continue supporting Iraqi security forces with a humanitarian aid and military training.

According to reports from Xinhua News agency, Obama’s talk on Tuesday with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is on a visit to the White House, comprised mainly of the ongoing fight against the Islamic State, the Syria-based militant group.

In a joint statement issued by the two countries at the conclusion of the talks Obama “pledged to continue to support Iraqi security forces and tribal engagement initiatives with US training and equipment.”

“Success will not occur overnight, but what is clear is that we will be successful,”  Obama told reporters.

Obama further said that “Serious progress” was being made in pushing back the militants from the areas it had seized.

The joint statement said Abadi stressed the importance of ” stabilising” areas liberated from the militant group, asking for assistance from Washington and the coalition to enable “immediate and long-term stabilisation” in these areas.

Obama on Tuesday announced an additional 200 million dollars in humanitarian aid to Iraq, as more than 2.6 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since January 2014.

Further, Washington is working on the delivery of F-16 fighters to Baghdad, with 30 Iraqi pilots being trained in the US.

Also some 3,000 American troops have been sent back to help train and advise the Iraqi and Kurdish forces after Obama ordered a complete troop withdrawal from the Arab country in 2011.

Before leaving for Washington DC, the Iraqi leader indicated that he would ask for stepped-up air raids on IS targets as well as US drones and other arms worth billions of dollars.

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Thousands Displaced as SDF Targeting Civilians Advances on Last IS Territory in Syria

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

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A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Islamic State (IS) fighters are targeting civilians who are trying to flee the last territory held by the terror group in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces told VOA on Thursday.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led alliance, said that IS militants hit a road used by civilians to escape violence as the battle to free the town of Baghuz in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province enters its sixth day.

“IS has blocked that road to prevent civilians from coming to the SDF,” SDF fighter Ali Ahmed said. “They have targeted civilians there, but we have responded to their attacks against civilians.”

Ahmed said that some families of IS fighters are among the fleeing civilians.

Located near the Iraqi border, Baghuz is the last stronghold held by IS extremists in Syria. With the help of the U.S.-led coalition, SDF fighters have pushed out IS from all territories it once held since 2014.

Fierce fighting between IS militants and the U.S.-backed fighters continues as the latter try to gain ground on Baghuz on several fronts.

“We have two main obstacles as we advance on Baghuz,” Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesperson, told VOA. “The first one is that [IS] terrorists are holding on to a number of civilians to use them as a bargain chip for their exit.”

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

IS controls about 5 square kilometers of territory inside the Syrian town, local military officials said.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview. VOA

Ivan Hasib, a Syrian reporter covering the battle, told VOA that he witnessed an unusual movement by U.S. military vehicles in the area.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview.

He said the remaining IS fighters in Baghuz are hoping to exchange hostages for a safe exit into the Iraqi desert.

Also Read: Islamic State Using Women, Children as Human Shields to Postpone Defeat

“There must be some sort of negotiations between IS and SDF about the hostages, because even [U.S.-led] coalition airstrikes have stopped since Tuesday night,” Hasib said, adding that SDF fighters were forced to pause their military operations on the northeastern front in Baghuz.

“We can’t start marching toward it from this side because of civilians. Many civilians are using this road to this side. So we’re here to protect them,” Mezlum Kobani, an SDF commander, told VOA.

According to SDF officials, more than 5,000 civilians have been rescued from IS in Baghuz. (VOA)