Civilians paying the price in 'final Islamic State battle’
A group of 600 civilians escaped the last square mile held by the Islamic State group under the cover of darkness in the small hours of Tuesday morning.
It is not known how many remain in the Syrian village of Baghouz, which has been torn apart since Saturday by fierce battles between IS and the Kurdish-led SDF militia, backed by the US military.
The road to Baghouz is dotted by military checkpoints, burning cars and vehicles fleeing the battle line.
At least 1,000 of the village's residents have now fled to areas controlled by the SDF along the Syrian Iraq border; from here the smoke hanging over Baghouz can still be seen.
Suspected US-led coalition airstrikes killed at keast 16 civilians, including seven children, on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
US waplanes also targeted a mosque believed to be an IS command and control centre.
"Where will we go? Wherever we go we are bombed," one resident asked The New Arab's Arabic reporter on the ground. "When will the bombing stop?"
The IS group claimed more than 100 people were killed or injured in Monday’s bombing of Baghouz.
After a pause of more than a week to allow civilians to evacuate, the SDF declared a final push to retake the "Baghouz pocket" from IS on Saturday, aided by the jets and artillery of the US-led coalition.
Civilians are bearing the brunt of bombing meant to completely eliminate IS. An opposition media source said the coalition bombing of IS strongholds on Monday night also "targeted a civilian camp on the outskirts of the village, leading to several tents catching fire and dozens of dead and wounded".
"Most of the civilians affected by the carnage have been displaced from al-Susah, a village close to Baghouz. They have fled from death to death," said the local journalist who asked not to be in this report.
Similar reports have come out of Deir az-Zour. A local activist told The New Arab that coalition forces had killed women and children in a series of air raids on a populated civilian area outside the town.
The US Department of Defence has yet to respond to our request for comment.
Many of the 20,000 civilians displaced in recent weeks are now forced to cope with difficult conditions in SDF-run refugee camps.
Local media reported the conditions in these camps, especially al-Hul in the countryside outside al-Hasakah, as dire, reporting that a number of children have died from exposure.
Thousands fleeing from Deir az-Zour are also arriving in the camp.