US-backed SDF forces expel ISIS from key towns east Raqqa

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SDF fighters clearing a village in northern Raqqa after ISIS expulsion. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Raqqa – After clashes with Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday captured two towns in eastern Raqqa.

“The SDF forces today seized control of the Hadi and Natali towns in the eastern countryside of Raqqa,” an SDF spokesman told ARA News.

“ISIS militants were forced to withdraw under heavy bombardment by the SDF,” he said.

According to the official, the two towns used to be main bases for ISIS jihadists in eastern Raqqa, northeast Syria.

“ISIS evacuated its security centres in the two towns. This progress could facilitate the SDF movements across the eastern suburb of Raqqa,” the spokesman said.

At least 13 ISIS militants were killed in Sunday’s clashes.

This comes juts one day after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces announced the launch of the third phase of Euphrates Wrath Operation in Raqqa, a campaign aimed at isolating the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group in its de facto capital.

Cihan Shekh Ehmed, the SDF’s official Spokesperson for the Euphrates Wrath Operation, said in a press conference on Saturday that the new phase will be focused on securing the eastern countryside of Raqqa.

“As the [SDF-led] military operations [against ISIS] continue in western Raqqa, today we announce the third phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation in eastern Raqqa,” she said. “The third phase is aimed at liberating the eastern countryside of Raqqa Governorate from ISIS, and save our people there from ISIS terrorism,” Cihan said. “The brutality of this terrorist group increases as we close in on its de facto capital.”

The SDF announced that it has captured over 2500 km2 in western Raqqa Governorate as part of the second phase of the US-backed Euphrates Wrath Operation, launched on 10 December. The polyethnic alliance also confirmed that they had cleared 196 villages and dozens of farms.

During the first phase of Euphrates Wrath, which began on November 6, the SDF liberated roughly 560 km² in northern Raqqa. “Thus, since the beginning of the battle for Raqqa, 3200 square kilometers have been cleared, including 236 villages.”

The SDF launched the second phase of the Operation Euphrates Wrath with the objective of securing Raqqa’s western countryside and Tabqa Dam, which bridges the Euphrates River. The first phase of the operation focused on securing the banks of the Balikh River.

The SDF confirmed the that they had eliminated 620 ISIS militants during the course of the campaign, captured 18 others and destroyed “over 40 car bombs.” In addition, SDF troops seized “a great deal of ammunition and weapons,” as well as “a number of ISIS vehicles.”

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

Reporting by: Ahmed Shiwesh | Source: ARA News

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