Backed fighters thrust into Raqqa

Michele Moreno
June 13, 2017

The International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve announced: "The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their Syrian Arab Coalition partners launched the offensive to unseat ISIS [Daesh in Arabic] from its so-called "capital' Raqqa in northern Syria".

Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, the top USA commander in Iraq, said the twin offensives against Mosul and Raqqa are hurting the Islamic State group's prestige and ability to recruit new loyalists.

The YPG has been the main partner for the United States in its campaign in Syria against Daesh, which is also the target of separate campaigns waged by the Russian-backed Syrian regime and Free Syrian Army rebel groups, the latter backed by Turkey.

"We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England", Townsend said, referring to the terror attack late last month at an Ariana Grande concert, which ISIS has claimed credit for.

With air support from a US-led coalition, the SDF has spent months sealing off the militants in Raqqa, the heart of their territory in war-ravaged Syria.

The offensive, dubbed "Anger of the Euphrates", began with the storming of buildings in the eastern neighborhood of Mishlab by SDF troops fighting alongside USA special operations forces, according to a monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Raqqah is reportedly encircled from the north, west and east following the SDF's advance. The U.S. -led coalition said the fight for Raqqa would be "long and difficult" but would deliver a "decisive blow to the idea of ISIS as a physical caliphate", using an alternative acronym for the terrorist group.

The SDF has said it will hand control of Raqqa to a civilian council from the city after its capture, echoing the pattern in other areas retaken by the SDF.

The US-led coalition has said 3,000 to 4,000 IS fighters are thought to be holed up in Raqqa city, where they have erected defenses against the anticipated assault.

The strike on the school hosting displaced people occurred in the eastern Mashlab district, targeted since this morning by an offensive of Kurdish-Syrian militias supported by the US. It said they were likely carried out by the coalition.

The fighting is expected to be hard, Davis said, noting that civilians are trapped in the city and the terrorists are targeting those who are fleeing.

The battle to defeat IS in Mosul has already lasted months and the coalition expects the jihadis to use equally fierce tactics to defend their next-largest possession, Dillon said.

There are also USA special operations forces working as advisors alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. Protective plates welded to such vehicles stop light arms fire aimed at killing the driver or exploding the bomb prematurely. It is unclear how many civilians remain in Raqqa.

"They are fighting street battles inside Raqa now, and we have experience in urban warfare", she said.

Beyond Raqqa, IS still holds the eastern part of the Euphrates valley running to the Iraqi border and swathes of desert to the south.

He said once Daesh was defeated in Raqqa and Mosul in neighbouring Iraq, there would still be a lot of hard fighting ahead but reiterated that coalition was strong and committed to the complete annihilation of terrorists in both countries.

Other reports by Insurance News

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