On January 4, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that its fighters captured the villages of Elias and Jadlah north of Hajin in the southeastern Deir Ezzor countryside. SDF fighters killed eleven members of ISIS and captured an artillery piece during their advance, according to the SDF media center.
The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq reported that ISIS snipers killed two fighters of the SDF and injured one in the village of al-Kishkiyah village of Jadlah. ISIS fighters also shelled several positions of the SDF in the villages of al-Bahrah and al-Kishkiyah with dozens of mortars.
The resistance of ISIS slowed down the SDF advance towards Hajin during the last two weeks. However, thanks to the US-led coalition air support the SDF is maintaining momentum.
In a related development, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) announced that its Anti-Terror Units (YAT) eliminated a cell of ISIS in al-Karamah in the eastern Raqqa countryside. According to the YPG, the cell had been planning to attack several positions of the SDF and the SDF security forces (Asayish) in the provinces of Raqqa and Hasakah, including the Mabrouka refugee camp.
The YET killed 14 members of the ISIS cell and destroyed a VBIED while storming the cell’s headquarters. Several light weapons and IEDs were seized by the YET.
The US has armed and trained the YET force since 2014. While the US claims the force is part of the SDF, the YPG commands the force, which contains only Kurdish fighters. Due to this many Syrian pro-government and pro-opposition activists view the YET as a US tool against the local Arabs. For example, this force led the Kurdish attack on positions the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the city of al-Hasakah in August 2016.