President Bashar al-Assad said that the Syrian government supports whoever wants to liberate the city of Raqqa from ISIS terrorists, and that he is not afraid of being excluded from the Raqqa operation.
“We support whoever wants to liberate any city from the terrorists, but that doesn’t mean to be liberated from terrorists and being occupied by American forces, for example, or by another proxy, or other terrorists,” he told the AFP news agency.
“So, it’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqa. Is it really Syrian forces that are going to hand it over to the Syrian army? Is it going to be in cooperation with the Syrian army? It’s not clear yet,” Assad said.
“But what we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground. So, it’s just, let’s say, a hypothetical question, because there is nothing concrete on the ground,” he concluded.
Currently, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are carrying out an operation to isolate and eventually capture Raqqa.
On Thursday, the General Command of the Euphrates Operations Command announced the fourth phase to clear out the countryside of Raqqa.
“To clear the remaining northern countryside and the valley of Jalab from the terrorists and to remove the last obstacles in front of us, to prepare for the liberation of the city of Al-Raqqa and the completion of the siege with encirclement of the terrorists,” the SDF-led operations room said.
“This operation is carried out with the participation of the various factions and forces affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces, with the direct support of the coalition forces against terrorism through overall coverage and actual consultation on the ground, and progress is made on two fronts, east front and western front, Jalab and the northern countryside of the city of Raqqa,” it said.
“We call on our people and the people in the region to cooperate with the Syrian Democratic Forces and move, in order to ensure their safety, stay away from enemy positions and beware of the enemy’s plans that they will using them as human shields. We pledge to exert all efforts to preserve their security and safety,” the operation room said.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
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