Offensive in Syria targets Islamic State stronghold
U.S.-backed Syrian fighters pushed deeper into the Islamic State group’s last remaining stronghold on Monday, capturing an abandoned hospital.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces entered the eastern town of Hajin last week and intense fighting has been ongoing since then.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said the U.S.-allied fighters took full control of the hospital early Monday.
Omar Abu Layla, of the activist-run DeirEzzor 24 monitoring group, confirmed the hospital on the edge of town was retaken by the SDF.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the hospital had been destroyed earlier by air strikes from the U.S.-led coalition. The hospital was not believed to be operating when it was hit.
SDF fighters launched an offensive to capture Hajin and nearby villages on Sept. 10. They have made little progress since then, but last week intensified their attacks under the cover of air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition.
The Observatory meanwhile released an updated death toll for Syria’s conflict, saying about 560,000 people have been killed since it began in March 2011. The group said it has documented the names of 367,965 of the deceased.
The updated toll was released to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The group said the dead include 111,330 civilians, 65,048 troops and 50,296 pro-government Syrian gunmen. It said the dead also include 65,108 insurgents and 2,619 army defectors. The conflict has also wounded more than a million people and displaced half of Syria’s population of 23 million.