French howitzer guns deployed in the Euphrates Valley desert just inside Iraq stand ready to pour fury on ISIS 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, Rappler reported.
"We're less than 10 kilometers (six miles) from the frontline here," pointed 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 into three green-and-black Caesar gun-howitzers with a range of 40 kilometers (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, February 9 after a pause of more than a week to allow civilians to flee.
"The end is near," is the message from France's Defense Minister Florence Parly, who visited the Task Force Wagram site in Al-Qaim from Baghdad aboard an American V-22 Osprey military aircraft.
"The terrorists are leaderless, without communications, in disarray, on the verge of collapse. So let's finish off this fight," the minister tells a group of some 40 French soldiers manning the outpost alongside 100 US troops.