Eastern Syria — Fierce battles are being fought as U.S.-backed forces appear on the verge of taking the last ISIS stronghold in eastern Syria. As the military moves in, civilians are pouring out.
CBS News saw the latest surge in an overwhelming flood of civilians. Human shields trapped inside the last remaining ISIS village are the single biggest obstacle slowing down the U.S.-led offensive.
On Tuesday, there were 500 people alone, who said they escaped in the early hours, defying ISIS death threats. They wouldn’t let us go, Hala Mohammed, a mother of five said. She said they had to risk their lives to get there.
Every day, they came streaming out — far more than soldiers in the region anticipated. What’s striking is the number of children, who have only known life under ISIS.
If there is a positive note about the mass exodus, it’s that people here say there are now very few civilians left inside. There are just 500 to 600 ISIS fighters facing inevitable defeat.
For Hala, whose husband has already been killed in an airstrike, there’s no love lost. When asked what it means to her to see the end of ISIS, she said they mean nothing, calling them trash.
With civilians left, the U.S.-led defeat of the last ISIS holdouts in Syria may be imminent. Each person who escapes that village is one less civilian to worry about inside it.