Syrian Democratic Forces capture more ground in Raqqa

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SDF fighters clearing a village in northern Raqqa after ISIS expulsion. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday made new gains in the fight against ISIS militants in Raqqa city, advancing in two neighbourhoods.

The SDF leadership said that advances continue in the neighbourhoods of Nazlah Shehada and Hisham Bin Abdul Malek, although both neighbourhoods are not fully liberated yet.

In the clashes, at least 15 ISIS fighters were killed. Moreover, there are still hidden ISIS elements in some of the pockets of these two neighbourhoods.

Moreover, the SDF media centre reported that the Uwais al-Qarani mosque and the Ammar Ibn Yasir Shrine in Raqqa were liberated, but the historic shrine of Ibn Yasr was destroyed by ISIS explosives.

“The progress in ongoing on various fronts, but Daesh [ISIS] still control the city centre and fortifications that are connected to each other,” the SDF said.

“Our special units continue to work to evacuate civilians from inside Raqqa and transfer them to the safe areas,” it said.

In the meantime, the US-led coalition’s spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon has said that around 45 per cent of Raqqa city is now under the SDF forces. While the SDF says that 50 per cent is under their control.

“The SDF have cleared about nine square miles of terrain this past week as they fought against stiff, sporadic resistance from ISIS entrenched in the city,” Dillon said.

“On the western axis, the SDF took control of a series of multi-story buildings that allowed them to provide over-watch and push further into the city’s center,” he said. “On the eastern axis, the SDF made incremental gains south of the main road that runs east to west in the city.”

Furthermore, the coalition spokesperson said that the distance between the east and west SDF axes is less than half a mile. “And once they link up, the SDF will have full control of southern Raqqa. And south of the Euphrates River, the SDF continue to isolate Raqqa and reinforce their positions,” he added.

“It’s fair to say that the fight in Raqqa is more similar to the fight in East Mosul than in West Mosul,” he said.

“You know, the — the infrastructure and the spacing of the — the buildings — you don’t have quite the congested and very tight confines of the old city of West Mosul like you do in Raqqa, at least not at that magnitude.  You know, obviously Raqqa is much smaller than Mosul as well,” Colonel Dillon said.

“But there still are a lot of those challenges that the Iraqi Security Forces faced in Mosul, with the vehicle-borne IEDs, with the — the use of the human element and the population to shield and that ISIS is using that we saw in Mosul that we are seeing in Raqqa,” he added.

“I would alse take account the how quickly that the Syrian Democratic Forces were able to make it immediately into the city, but there have been some stiff resistance since making it to, like, the ancient wall area as we’ve gotten closer into the city center,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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