About 500 ISIS fighters surrendered to Syrian forces Tuesday, fleeing along with civilians from the assault on the village that was their only remaining refuge in eastern Syria. The evacuation of Baghouz, near the Iraqi border, had been ongoing as a US-led coalition eased its pounding of the village with airstrikes to allow people to get out. A spokesman for Syrian forces tweeted that 3,500 people evacuated the village on Tuesday, CNN reports. The offensive began last month, and commanders of the Syrian forces said resistance has been fierce and has included the launching of guided missiles. To hold onto their last bits of territory, they said, the veteran ISIS forces have been attacking from a network of tunnels and have used civilians as human shields—possibly including their wives and children.
The fall of Baghouz would mean the end of ISIS' territorial control. At one time, the jihadist group dominated large parts of Iraq and Syria holding 7.7 million people, the coalition has said. ISIS' funding has dropped by more than half since 2014, as well. Still, CNN points out that UN monitors estimated last summer that the group had more than 20,000 members left in Iraq and Syria. But US-backed forces in Syria now have more than 2,000 suspected ISIS fighters in their custody, American officials told the Wall Street Journal. That's twice as many as previously estimated, and the Journal points out that it could complicate the Trump administration's plans to withdraw American forces from Syria. (A woman regrets leaving Alabama to join ISIS.)