Syrian Democratic Forces capture new areas amidst ISIS retreat

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Soldiers of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in western Raqqa. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Raqqa – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued to advance in Raqqa Governorate on Saturday, driving the Islamic State (ISIS) out of five villages and destroying a number of jihadi fighting positions.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces initiated the assault by bombing ISIS’ headquarters in western Raqqa with heavy artillery and mortar fire,” the SDF Media Office told ARA News.

According to the SDF, “five more villages were liberated” – Brosenjar al-Shamali, Brosenjar al-Janubi, Sahba, Ebu Jalat and Haji Sleman.

Military sources confirmed that SDF soldiers were sweeping through Raqqa’s western countryside. Kurdish units are now less than 25 km from Tabqa Dam.

The Syrian Democratic Forces’ leadership stressed the key role played by the US-led coalition, providing air cover and real-time surveillance.

“More than 25 ISIS terrorists were killed in Saturday’s operation,” SDF officer Daner Berkhudan told ARA News. “Several ISIS vehicles were seen leaving the targeted villages after the militants suffered heavy losses.”

Saturday’s advance comes just a few days after the SDF expelled ISIS militants from ten other villages in western Raqqa – Bir Shallal, Um Salim, Safakher, Ajaj, Merwaniya, Krajah, Hamer Saghir, Hamer Kabir, Qerefdan and Draniya.

Second Phase of Euphrates Wrath 

This week’s offensives are part of the wider Euphrates Wrath Operation, which was launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces on November 6. While the first phase focused on securing both banks of the Balikh River, the second phase aims “at liberating the western countryside of Raqqa.”

The long-term objective of Euphrates Wrath is the elimination of the Islamic State in its de facto capital, Raqqa city.

SDF troops and US Special Forces have liberated 37  km² so far, as part of the second phase of the operation. During the first phase of Euphrates Wrath, SDF soldiers captured an area measuring approximately 560 km².

The SDF have released several statements, inducing the jihadists in Raqqa to surrender.

“To the jihadists of the so-called Islamic State, our fire will soon reach downtown Raqqa and by then you won’t be able to escape,” the SDF said in a hair-raising statement last Monday. “This is the final call: either surrender to the Syrian Democratic Forces or die.”

Simultaneous Suicide Bombings  

The Islamic State has reacted to its sagging fortunes by launching suicide attacks, targeting security checkpoints and soft civilian targets. On Wednesday, istishhadi suicide bombers struck SDF positions in northern Raqqa Governorate.

“Members of the extremist group carried out four simultaneous attacks at YPG checkpoints in the vicinity of Ain Issa,” media activist Jivan Mustafa told ARA News.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are the largest force within the SDF. They have also proven to be among the most effective forces fighting ISIS, employing a highly-adaptive doctrine that emphasizes stealth, surprise and speed.

“Daesh terrorists try to impede our progress through launching such suicide attacks,” an SDF officer told ARA News in western Raqqa, using another acronym for ISIS. “But such cowardly attacks won’t affect our advance.”

Reporting by: Ahmed Shiwesh | Source: ARA News 

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