Kurdish-led forces launch major operation to take Raqqa city

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ARA News

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Tuesday the official start of the operation to liberate the city of Raqqa from Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants.

The SDF leadership held a press conference on Tuesday to announce the official start of the liberation of Raqqa city.

The SDF forces released a statement on the launch of the final stage of liberating Raqqa.

“This phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation includes the preparation for a major assault on the city of Raqqa–ISIS’s de facto capital,” SDF spokesman Talal Silo told a press conference.

Silo further said that there was no timeline for how long the operation will take before Raqqa is completely liberated from ISIS militants.

On Monday, the SDF tightened the siege on ISIS in Raqqa city after liberating three more villages in its northern countryside and killing at least 36 ISIS militants.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces continue to close in on ISIS around Raqqa. The SDF has gained about 350 square kilometers from ISIS in the last week. The SDF is poised around Raqqa. They’re within three kilometers of Raqqa City from the north and the east, and are about 10 kilometers from the city to the west,” coalition spokesperson Army Colonel Ryan Dillon said.

“The coalition continues to service ISIS targets with precision air and artillery strikes as the enemy attempts to strengthen their defenses in and around Raqqa. The coalition conducted 59 strikes in support of the isolation of Raqqa this past week, hitting fighting positions, construction equipment, artillery systems and command and control nodes,” he added.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces have given instructions for citizens of Raqqa to vacate. Currently, Raqqa IDPs right now are almost 200,000, with 92,000 of them in camps. Other ones are in settlements that are just built-up settlements,” Dillon stated.

Moreover, he said that the SDF and the Raqqa Civilian Council have made the decision to ask civilians to depart as opposed to staying in Raqqa.

“As far as asking them to leave, that is a decision, just as the decision for the initial stages of Mosul, for civilians to stay, was by the government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces. The same applies here in Raqqa,” he said.

The progress comes as part of the US-backed Euphrates Wrath Operation to liberate Raqqa province from ISIS jihadists.

On 13 April, the Syrian Democratic Forces launched the fourth phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation against Islamic State’s extremists to clear out the northern countryside 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, 2016, the SDF launched the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath, during which it captured over 2500 km² in Western Raqqa.

On 4 February, 2017, 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 liberating the city of Raqqa from ISIS extremists.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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