Syrian Democratic Forces launch fourth phase of anti-ISIS Raqqa campaign

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Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announce the launch of the Euphrates Wrath Operation to liberate Raqqa from ISIS. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

The Kurdish-Arab alliance of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Thursday announced the beginning of the fourth phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation against Islamic State’s (ISIS) extremists in Raqqa, northeast Syria. to clear out the northern countryside of Raqqa.

“In the name of the General Command of the Euphrates Wrath Operations Command, we now announce the beginning of the fourth phase 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’s operations room said in a statement obtained by ARA News.

“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 [US-led] coalition forces against terrorism through overall coverage and actual consultation on the ground. Progress is made on several fronts, eastern front and western front, Jalab and the northern countryside of the city of Raqqa,” it said.

The SDF leadership called on the people of Raqqa to cooperate with the Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS, 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 room said.

“We salute the steadfastness of our people and their cooperation with our forces and renew our pledge to shed on the victory in liberating the entire city of Al-Raqqa and purging it from the abomination of the terrorists,” the statement said.

Kurdish and Arab units of the SDF continue their progress in the vicinity of Raqqa in an attempt to further isolate the city completely, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition said on Wednesday.

“They continue to make progress in clearing ISIS fighters from the territory and the vicinity of Tabqa. Having cleared territory east and north of Raqqa, where they are now nearing positions to enable their assault to liberate the city,” Colonel John Dorrian, Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman told reporters.

“As they’ve cleared, they’ve repelled a significant number of ISIS attacks as the enemy struggles to slow their advance.  In the last 24 hours, they’ve cleared 11 square kilometers east of Raqqa and toward Tabqa, where the enemy remains completely isolated,” he said. “Our partnered forces have encountered tough resistance from ISIS in the area, encountering VBIED, direct and indirect fire attacks, as well as the use of human shields which the enemy continues to use to slow their advance.”

Jesper Söder, a Swedish SDF member, told ARA News that ISIS is still resisting. “We are advancing in to Tabqa area everyday. But there is really hard resistance from Daesh [ISIS].”

“So, we thought that the operation for the city would start in April, but Daesh have put up a hard fight. I think we should have beaten them in Tabqa already, but they have good positions to defend themselves and even from aircrafts,” Söder said, adding: “A lot of human shields are being used by Daesh [ISIS].”

“Several suicide cars and bombers are daily used by Daesh [ISIS] from Tabqa and surrounding fronts to Raqqa,” he told ARA News.“Daesh will not leave this city without making sure they have done as much harm to our fighters in SDF as they can,” he said. He suggested that the Tabqa operation may take one or two more weeks “after which the SDF could start the battle for the city 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, the SDF launched the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath, during which it captured over 2500 km² in Western Raqqa.

On 4 February, 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 isolating the ISIS radical group in its de facto capital Raqqa.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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