BEIRUT: Diehard militants defending their last bastions in eastern Syria used the cover of bad weather to launch a vain but deadly counterattack against Kurdish-led fighters.
The so-called Islamic State group was unable to hold on to the positions they attacked but the assault killed 23 members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and also left nine militants dead.
IS fighters took advantage of poor visibility to unleash suicide attackers on SDF forces along the front line in the Euphrates valley late on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.
“Twenty-three SDF fighters were killed and nine IS militants were also killed in fighting that lasted all night and into Monday morning,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The SDF launched what is meant to be the final offensive on the jihadist organisation four months ago with air and ground support from coalition forces.
The Kurdish-Arab alliance has deployed some 17,000 fighters for an operation aimed at flushing out IS from the last rump of its now-defunct “caliphate”.
IS fighters “launched deadly counterattacks in three different directions against the Syrian Democratic Forces, including in the villages of Sousa and Al-Shaafa,” Abdel Rahman said.
He said they used at least two suicide bombers in their attacks, which inflicted the latest in a string of heavy losses on the SDF.
According to the Observatory, 1,087 IS militants were killed since the start of the operation on Sept 10, while 602 members of the SDF also died.
“On Monday morning, the SDF launched an offensive and retook all the positions they lost,” the Observatory said.