Over 600 people were evacuated Saturday from the Islamic State group's remaining holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said, as US-backed fighters prepare for a final assault on the area. "More than 600 people, mainly women and children, were evacuated on 25 buses sent" by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that several dozen jihadist fighters were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-Arab alliance.
The SDF, backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition, in September launched an offensive to oust IS from the rump of the once-sprawling "caliphate" it proclaimed in 2014.
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Abdel Rahman said some 16,000 people, including 760 IS fighters, have fled the area since the start of December.
But "this is the first time that buses have been provided by the SDF and coalition", he said, suggesting a potential deal had been struck between the warring sides.
The United Nations said Friday that overall some 25,000 people have fled the violence over the last six months as the die-hard jihadists have battled to defend their dwindling bastions.
An estimated 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the area around the town of Hajin, the UN said.
The US-led coalition on Saturday fired over 20 missiles against jihadist positions, the Observatory said. The monitor said some 300 SDF combattants had deployed near the village of Sousa in preparations for a final assault.
Earlier, Donald Trump surprised the world and his country as well when he suddenly announced that the US is pulling out its troops from Syria. "In Syria, Erdogan said he wants to knock out ISIS, whatever's left, the remnants of ISIS. And Saudi Arabia just came out and said they are going to pay for some economic development. Which is great, that means we don't have to pay. We are spread out all over the world. We are in countries most people haven't even heard about. Frankly, it's ridiculous," Trump added.
Trump's sudden decision sparked turmoil in his administration, prompting the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as well as of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-IS coalition.
Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State group, resigned in protest over President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, a US official said, joining Defence Secretary Jim Mattis in an administration exodus of experienced national security figures.
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McGurk had said it would be "reckless" to consider IS defeated and therefore would be unwise to bring American forces home. McGurk decided to speed up his original plan to leave his post in mid-February. Appointed to the post by President Barack Obama in 2015 and retained by Trump, McGurk said in his resignation letter that the militants were on the run, but not yet defeated, and that the premature pullout of American forces from Syria would create the conditions that gave rise to IS.