On the frontlines of ISIS' last major pocket

CNN has acquired exclusive video from the frontlines of ISIS' last major territory in Hajin area, in eastern Syria. Nick Paton Walsh has the latest.

Posted: Nov 14, 2018 12:45 AM
Updated: Nov 14, 2018 12:59 AM

Syrian Kurdish forces are resuming the final phase of operations against ISIS, as the terrorist group is pushed back into its last remaining slivers of territory.

The resumption comes as CNN releases remarkable and rare frontline footage of the recent intense fight against ISIS, filmed by Brazilian photographer Gabriel Chaim.

The latest Kurdish push against ISIS follows a lengthy and contentious stand-off with Turkish forces. Turkey, a NATO member, considers the Syrian Kurds -- the US coalition's main ally in the fight against ISIS -- a terrorist group.

Clashes between the Turkish military and the Syrian Kurds -- also known as the SDF when allied with Syrian Arab fighters against ISIS -- have intermittently plagued and delayed the final operations against ISIS. The most recent suspension occurred November 1, but operations restarted Sunday, the SDF said in a statement.

The SDF said operations resumed after "positive calls from our allies to de-escalate and focus the efforts on defeating ISIS, as it would contribute to the stabilization of the area and the benefit of all parties." The US has long been mediating between Ankara and the SDF to lessen tension to the point where the SDF can focus on ISIS.

The past months of the operations, aiming to deny ISIS their last small towns and swathes of inhospitable desert along the Iraqi border and at the far eastern end of the Euphrates river valley in Syria, have been a slower and tougher fight than many expected. The main holdout fighters are thought to be die-hard foreigners and ISIS leadership, taking a last stand.

Photographer Chaim joined the intense fight for the town of Sousa in late October, a period when the SDF fought tooth and nail to take its streets from ISIS. On October 23, four car bombs targeted SDF fighters, though the SDF said three attacks were stopped and the driver of the fourth was captured.

Chaim saw the heavy use of mortars by ISIS to try to push the SDF back, and the intense close-range use of artillery and airstrikes to flush ISIS out of urban positions. At one point in the footage, an Apache attack helicopter hovers over an ISIS target before its cannons destroy it.

He also witnessed the often young and poorly equipped nature of the militia leading this globally important fight. One apparently teenage fighter appears disorientated as he receives treatment following an explosion. Most medical care is done by the light of cellphones and involves just cleaning wounds with saline solution and applying rudimentary dressings.

On October 28, shortly after Chaim left the frontlines, many of the advances were reversed when ISIS took advantage of a sandstorm and counter-attacked, killing dozens of SDF fighters. The fight remains intense, despite the broad perception that ISIS have been defeated in the area.

Chaim also witnessed the difficulties the SDF face when they capture civilians fleeing ISIS-held areas. It is hard to weigh the immediate needs of the people against the possibility that they are ISIS sympathizers.

As one fighter says: "The biggest battle is going to be freeing the people from the ISIS way of thinking. They've been dragged here by ISIS from their former capital, Raqqa, but they still think ISIS will come back one day and give them a caliphate again."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36096

Reported Deaths: 2231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10095598
Lake3833203
Allen175371
Cass15927
Elkhart149528
St. Joseph133736
Hendricks119276
Hamilton118394
Johnson1121112
Madison59961
Porter55830
Clark53041
Bartholomew52739
LaPorte44624
Howard44036
Tippecanoe4294
Jackson3992
Shelby39722
Delaware38940
Hancock35127
Boone32435
Floyd32340
Vanderburgh2892
Morgan28426
Noble26821
Montgomery24818
Clinton2461
White2389
Decatur23131
Grant22523
Dubois2093
Harrison19522
Henry18412
Kosciusko1792
Vigo1788
Marshall1782
Greene17225
Dearborn17022
Monroe17012
Lawrence16724
Warrick16729
Miami1441
Putnam1427
Jennings1324
Orange13122
Scott1263
Franklin1168
LaGrange1162
Ripley1086
Daviess9916
Carroll943
Steuben882
Wayne866
Wabash802
Fayette797
Newton7810
Jasper731
Jay540
Clay533
Randolph523
Rush513
Washington501
Fulton501
Pulaski500
Jefferson491
Whitley453
DeKalb441
Starke393
Perry390
Huntington382
Sullivan371
Owen341
Wells340
Brown331
Benton320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford240
Fountain222
Switzerland210
Spencer211
Adams211
Gibson192
Parke180
Posey160
Martin130
Ohio130
Warren121
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0179

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37282

Reported Deaths: 2340
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin6216293
Cuyahoga4732259
Hamilton2767167
Marion268631
Lucas2313263
Pickaway209638
Summit1505181
Mahoning1466191
Butler94832
Columbiana89152
Stark782101
Lorain72260
Montgomery72016
Trumbull59451
Belmont44715
Warren39821
Medina37625
Tuscarawas3674
Miami36630
Delaware35514
Ashtabula34738
Portage33357
Lake32012
Fairfield3148
Clark3137
Wood30449
Geauga30034
Wayne29351
Licking26710
Mercer2238
Allen21933
Clermont2185
Richland2164
Darke18923
Erie18516
Madison1637
Washington11819
Crawford1184
Morrow1081
Greene1055
Ottawa10417
Putnam9514
Sandusky8512
Monroe8015
Auglaize773
Ross732
Hardin710
Hocking705
Jefferson672
Huron611
Williams561
Union551
Muskingum541
Holmes543
Hancock531
Wyandot482
Shelby463
Fulton450
Coshocton450
Clinton451
Logan430
Fayette410
Preble391
Guernsey382
Defiance342
Carroll343
Lawrence311
Brown301
Champaign281
Seneca262
Highland261
Knox251
Vinton212
Ashland210
Perry191
Athens181
Henry170
Scioto170
Jackson140
Paulding140
Adams111
Harrison100
Pike90
Gallia81
Van Wert70
Meigs60
Noble60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 85°
Angola
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 85°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 82°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 83°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 83°
Few Storms Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events