Kurdish forces in Syria cleared out 300 ISIS fighters from the al-Hol refugee camp as part of an ongoing operation to eliminate the terrorist group’s presence and influence in the region.
“ISIS preys on the weak and disenfranchised and is trying to exploit the conditions in the camp to help regenerate its forces,” said General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). “The situation in al-Hol is an international crisis that requires an international solution, and the only permanent solution is the repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of camp residents.”
The 24-day operation concluded with a clear-out, which also resulted in the rescue of six women whom ISIS fighters had chained and tortured – one of the women had remained in their custody since 2014 at the age of nine.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) carried out the operation with support from CENTCOM by sharing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
“During the 24-day clearing operation, the SDF arrested approximately 300 ISIS operatives, confiscated 25 kilograms of explosives and 25 hand grenades, and removed ISIS supply and logistics materials from the camp,” CENTCOM said in a statement Sunday.
On September 8th, two SDF members were killed in engagements with ISIS fighters in the camp during the operation, the statement added.
CENTCOM has focused on the 60,000-person camp with an operation that started Aug. 25. Kurilla visited the camp last week and warned that the conditions made it an ideal target for ISIS to “spread their vile ideology.”
“Most of the residents seek to escape ISIS, but ISIS sees the camp as a captive audience for its message and recruitment efforts,” Kurilla said. “It is therefore urgent that we repatriate residents back to their countries of origin and rehabilitate them if needed.”
The al-Hol camp is Syria’s largest refugee camp, with children making up more than half the camp’s population, according to The Washington Post. Extremists at the camp had reportedly killed 44 of its residents and humanitarian workers.