Interview with SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali
about the on-going fights in Baghouz to Rojava Information Center, Feb 12, 2019
Update on the situation in Baghouz? Is it true there’s only 1KM² left?
Now, the war in Baghouz can be described as taking place in a very limited space. Before we said 4 kilometres, or 2 kilometres, or 1 kilometre… but because civilians are being used as a human shield we are in a very difficult situation. We estimated that there were 1000 or 2000 civilians among the ISIS fighters and we wanted to remove those civilians and finish ISIS. But in these days, at least 1000 people left, and there are still some remaining in ISIS territory.
I came from the front an hour ago. Hundreds of people were leaving. We questioned each of them and they said there were some civilians still among ISIS, numbering in the thousands. How those civilians are hidden, how they’re being used as a human shield, has an influence on the situation of the war. For this reason, it’s essential we carry out the war in a sensitive and very well-planned way, so those civilians do not become collateral damage.
Since yesterday, war has been continuing without a break. ISIS are trying to attack and take back some military points which our forces previously liberated. But our response will be final – they don’t have anywhere else to go. At the same time, it’s essential that we approach them in a patient way, so that we can bring those civilians out of the area in a safe manner.
How are you avoiding injuring the civilians?
Bombing both with planes and heavy weapons is carried out according to absolutely precise co-ordinates. Both ISIS cars moving around Baghouz and the ISIS fighters themselves are bombed: in those places where we have doubts, areas which also have civilians, those neighbourhoods and houses are not bombed.
How do you protect yourselves from ISIS’ suicide attacks, making use of many suicide bombers including children?
The situation inside Baghoz is not like ISIS’ regular situation before. They don’t have a lot of explosives left. Sometimes, roads were bombed and closed off. They tried once again to make attacks in such a way.
But of course, our forces have a strategy for that. They fire with heavy weapons before they can detonate themselves. In the time after, they assess if there are more bombs or suicide bombers. I can’t explain our whole strategy now, but we were a long time in this environment. We fought against ISIS for four years, and lived these conditions.
Can you estimate how much time is left?
We said, in the following days we are going to finish ISIS in a short time. But this is only in a military sense. Like a system, like an ideology, like an organisation, that’s another subject. We estimated that in these days, once we manage to remove all the civilians, we can finish ISIS in hours. But until this moment it seems there are still some civilians. So long as it’s not 100% certain that we’ve removed those civilians and taken them to a safe place, it is difficult to defeat ISIS. After four years of war and struggle against ISIS, we don’t accept that ISIS is brought to an end with the sacrifice of civilians.
For that reason, we need to put a plan in place for the coming days, and strive to remove those civilians. Once they are removed, ISIS will be finished in a short time.