Hassake (Syria) (AFP) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
militia has advanced to within four kilometres north and east of
the Islamic State group’s Syrian bastion Raqa, a spokesperson and
monitor said Tuesday.
The advances bring the SDF, a Kurdish-Arab alliance, closer than
ever to the jihadist group’s most important remaining Syrian
But the fighters are still 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Raqa to
the west, and they do not control any territory directly to the
city’s south, which is bordered by the Euphrates river.
The SDF “on Monday took three villages four kilometres (two
miles) north of Raqa”, spokesman Talal Sello told AFP.
The alliance also seized two more villages four kilometres to the
east of the city on Monday night, he added.
“We are close to encircling Raqa from the east and the north, but
we need to advance on the western front before launching the
assault (on the city) at the right moment.”
Last week, the SDF seized the town of Tabqa and the adjacent dam,
around 55 kilometres (35 miles) west of Raqa, and the alliance
will now push on towards their next target, the town of
The SDF has said the long-awaited attack on Raqa would start at
the beginning of the summer, probably in June.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor
confirmed the capture of the five villages, saying the SDF had
advanced by four kilometres on the northern front and two
kilometres on the eastern one.
“The SDF wants to link up its troops to the north and east of
Raqa,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
IS fighters are still able to move in and out of the city via the
area to its south, crossing the Euphrates by boat, according to
From there they head further south to the IS-held town of
Al-Sukhna in Homs province, and onwards east, to Deir Ezzor
province, which remains almost completely under the control of
The SDF launched an operation to retake Raqa city in November
2016 and it has received key backing from the US-led coalition
carrying out air strikes on IS.
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