Holdout jihadists scurried along the reedy banks of the Euphrates in an increasingly desperate defence Tuesday of the last scrap of their “caliphate” in eastern Syria.Advancing Kurdish-led forces forced diehard fighters from the Islamic State group out of the main encampment where they had been confined in recent days. The move brought a months-old operation to wipe out the last vestige of IS’s once-sprawling proto-state closer to its inevitable outcome but the Syrian Democratic Forces stopped short of declaring the battle over.“This is not a victory announcement, but a significant progress in the fight against Daesh,” SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. Some of the jihadists now fighting for a few fields in a bend of the river seemed unwilling to surrender and a senior IS leader even issued a message calling for attacks. A few days ago, the last denizens of the IS “caliphate” were crammed into a chaotic encampment on the edge of Baghouz, a jumble of mangled vehicles, hastily-dug berms and makeshift tents. Thousands of people have fled the death trap in recent weeks and turned themselves in.The Kurdish-led force moved in Tuesday and took up positions in the deserted encampment, leaving holdout jihadists cornered. Syrian regime and allied forces are deployed on the other side of the river and the border, preventing any escape. Audio message“Clashes are continuing as a group of ISIS terrorists who are confined into a tiny area still fight back,” Bali said. With backing from the US-led coalition, the SDF has blitzed hundreds of fighters into submission in recent days.Published in Daily Times, March 20th 2019.