The Final Victory In The Battle Against ISIS Is Now In Sight (HBO)

From gun trenches in the hills overlooking the Syrian town of Baghuz, US-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF rain down automatic weapons fire on what’s left of the Islamic State caliphate.

After being driven out of Mosul in 2017, ISIS has been pushed back – mile-by-mile, through fierce fighting – from nearly all the territory it used to control in Syria into a tiny patch of land on the Euphrates river near the border with Iraq.

SDF commanders like Adnan Afrin say the full territorial victory they’ve spent years fighting for is finally now in sight: “this sprawling organization that stunned the world has crumbled and is close to being defeated. It’s been painful, and difficult – from the day Isis started to this moment…but it’s ending now.”

The SDF advance has been slowed by the number of women and children that have streamed out of ISIS-controlled areas since the bombardment started. More than 60,000 people have left during the course of the siege.

On Wednesday, SDF officials said they were in control of most of the encampment with just a small group of ISIS fighters left inside, surrounded and outnumbered. But from rooftops on the outskirts of Baghuz, SDF snipers continue to take out targets, while 50-caliber machine guns rain down fire from above and US jets patrol the skies overhead.

The battle is almost over, but for now ISIS fighters are still refusing to stop clinging on to their last tiny piece of territory.

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Inside ISIS’s Final Fight (HBO)

In a deserted farmhouse on the Deir Ezzor frontline, a group of Arab YPG fighters and foreign volunteers — an American, a Scotsman, an Australian and a South Korean — took up position on the edge of Islamic State territory, firing wildly from the hollow windows onto ISIS fighters hiding in the orchards below.

Unseen from the house, ISIS militants crept forward into the building’s garden, launching a sudden assault on this isolated position, targeting the group with snipers, machine gun and anti-tank rocket fire before they attempted to storm it.

After years of bloody conflict across northern and eastern Syria, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have pushed ISIS to the brink of total defeat. The remaining ISIS fighters now wait out their days in a cluster of tiny villages nestled between the Euphrates river and the Iraqi border.

Surrounded, outnumbered, and outgunned, the jihadist group’s last diehard fighters aren’t giving up. And they’re being met by US-backed forces and foreign volunteers, many of whom have traveled thousands of miles for the final fight.

Huddling in the central stairwell for cover, deafened by the roar of rockets hitting the rooms around them, YPG fighters argued furiously over their next move.

“We’re surrounded,” shouted the Australian YPG fighter, “We’re going to have to jump from the balcony and make a run for it.”

They quickly gathered blankets, mattresses and curtains, throwing them to the ground outside to soften the fall. Escaping through the alleyway, the fighters retreated to safety in a nearby outpost as Coalition airstrikes rained down on the besieged house.

On the map, the war against the Islamic State is all but won. But here in the middle Euphrates river valley, where much of the population resents the US-backed forces as alien occupiers, these fighters are likely to face many more sudden ambushes and assaults from within this dense patchwork of orchards and villages, even after the battle for Baghuz is won.

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Turkish-backed Syrian fighters head to Manbij

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters gather in the north of Aleppo province before heading to the Kurdish-controlled town of Manbij and areas East of the Euphrates river.