Kurdish-led forces make first gains in battle for Raqqa city

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Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clearing a village north of Raqqa after ISIS expulsion. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Wednesday captured a neighbourhood in the eastern part of Raqqa city, in northeastern Syria, after clashes with Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants.

The SDF fighters entered the Mashlab neighbourhood in eastern Raqqa after bombing ISIS positions there with heavy artillery.

“After brief clashes, the terrorists evacuated the neighbourhood. We are now in control of al-Mashlab in a first progress within the battle for Raqqa city,” SDF officer Habun Osman told ARA News.

Also on Wednesday, the Syrian Democratic Forces captured Tel Harqal district west of Raqqa. “Tel Harqa was a key base for ISIS terrorists in the western suburb of Raqqa. The area was liberated today by our forces,” SDF Operations Room said in a statement.

“Dozens of ISIS terrorists were killed by SDF fire on Wednesday,” officer Osman told ARA News, without giving exact numbers on casualties.

This comes just one day after the US-backed SDF troops launched a major operation to liberate the city of Raqqa from ISIS radicals.

On Tuesday, the SDF announced the official start of the operation to liberate the city of Raqqa from Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants.

The SDF forces released a statement on the launch of the final stage of liberating Raqqa. “This phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation includes the preparation for a major assault on the city of Raqqa–ISIS’s de facto capital,” SDF spokesman Talal Silo told a press conference.

Silo further said that there was no timeline for how long the operation will take before Raqqa is completely liberated from ISIS militants.

On Monday, the SDF tightened the siege on ISIS in Raqqa city after liberating three more villages in its northern countryside and killing at least 36 ISIS militants.

Raqqa has been known as a de facto capital for the ISIS self-proclaimed Caliphate since the summer of 2014.

The Kurdish-Arab-Christian alliance of SDF has been isolating Raqqa since November 2016, when the US-backed alliance launched the so-called Euphrates Wrath Operation.

On 13 April, the Syrian Democratic Forces launched the fourth phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation against Islamic State’s extremists to clear out the northern countryside of Raqqa.

During the first phase of Euphrates Wrath, which began on November 6, 2016, the SDF liberated roughly 560 km² in Northern Raqqa.

On 10 December, 2016, the SDF launched the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath, during which it captured over 2500 km² in Western Raqqa.

On 4 February, 2017, the Syrian Democratic Forces launched the third phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation, and liberated dozens of villages in Eastern Raqqa from ISIS jihadists.

The campaign is ultimately aimed at liberating the city of Raqqa from ISIS extremists.

Reporting by: Hozan Mamo | Source: ARA News

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