French howitzer-guns deployed in the Euphrates Valley desert just inside Iraq stand ready to pour fury on Islamic State group diehards in their last holdout across the border in Syria.
Warplanes flash through the sky, followed seconds later by explosions on the Syrian side that send up a mushroom cloud.
“We’re less than 10 kilometres (six miles) from the frontline here,” points out Colonel Francois-Regis Legrier.
He is the commander of Task Force Wagram, a French artillery group within the US-led military coalition that backs up Iraqi soldiers and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the jihadists.
Dozens of 155-mm shells are lined up ready to be loaded onto three green-and-black Caesar gun-howitzers with a range of 40 kilometres (25 miles).
The SDF, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, announced a final push to retake the jihadist pocket in and around the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border late Saturday, after a pause of more than a week to allow civilians to flee.