SDF forces liberate strategic Tabqa Airport, push further into ISIS capital

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ARA News

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday 20:00 PM liberated the strategic Tabqa Airport after several days of fighting, officials confirmed.

“Tabqa Military Airport is liberated by SDF,” the Democratic Union Party (PYD) said on Sunday.

“The Fighters of the Euphrates Wrath operation have liberated the airport of Tebqa from the Daesh [ISIS] mercenaries,” Nawaf Xelil, a Kurdish analyst and former PYD official, said.

The airbase lies 45 kilometers west of Raqqa. Other SDF forces are within 10 kilometers of the city, approaching from the northeast.

The airport was captured by ISIS in August 2014 and is near the Turkish and Iraqi border. ISIS at the time killed more than 170 soldiers, and executed 160 Syrian soldiers between 27-28 August 2014.

This is the second airport liberated by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, after the SDF fighters captured the Minnigh airbase from Islamist militants in February last year.

Kurdish officials have speculated that the SDF and US-led coalition forces could use the air base in the final offensive on the Islamic State’s (ISIS) de facto capital of Raqqa.

The SDF and the US-led coalition could use the airport to facilitate the flow of good, supplies and personnel. This could accelerate the liberation of Raqqa and move the campaign forward.

Kurdish officials hope that the liberation of the airport would make the US-led coalition less dependent on the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, that Turkey previously threatened to close down due to US cooperation with the Kurdish-led SDF troops.

This comes as part of the third phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation, aimed at liberating Eastern Raqqa from ISIS jihadists, launched by the SDF on 4 February.

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

The campaign is ultimately aimed at isolating the ISIS radical group in its de facto capital.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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