DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – The Syrian army and its allied forces have flushed out Daesh terrorists from their last stronghold in Syria’s sprawling central province of Homs.
Syrian media reported on Saturday that the key town of al-Sukhna had been completely purged of Daesh terrorists.
Footage that circulated on social media showed Syrian soldiers firing celebratory gunfire and showed the terrorists’ deserted arms caches and hideouts in the town.
Sukhna is some 50 kilometers away from the border separating Homs from the neighboring Dayr al-Zawr Province. The latter is the last territory in the Arab country where Daesh maintains relatively substantive presence.
The government has also had its forces enter Dayr al-Zawr from the south.
Meanwhile, human rights groups have expressed concerns over the mounting civilian cost of airstrikes being carried out by the U.S.-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh terrorists in Syria, stressing that the military contingent must be more transparent in how it makes targeting decisions.
"The coalition is not taking any precautions to avoid civilian casualties,” Aghid al-Khodr, a senior editor at Sound and Picture, an organization that maintains a network of covert correspondents in Raqqah – the de facto Daesh capital in Syria, said.
"The number of Daesh fighters in the city does not exceed 500, but if they’re going to destroy a residential building and wipe out all the people in it every time they want to kill a Daesh fighter then they will be purging the city from both Daesh and the residents,” he added.
Rights groups further argued that the US-led airstrikes have on some occasions endangered large groups of civilians in an effort to kill a single Daesh militant.
"There are definitely grounds for caution and concern and the need to beef up the process by which targets are selected,” Nadim Houry, the director of the terrorism and counter-terrorism program at Human Rights Watch, said.
"We know that Daesh fights from civilian areas and in some cases intentionally uses civilians to protect itself,” he pointed out.
"The coalition still has the obligation to minimize civilian casualties and have a robust mechanism in place. When it fails the result can be very deadly for civilians, so an investigation of these strikes is essential,” Houry noted.
The U.S.-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.