US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to launch battle for Raqqa to expel ISIS from its de facto capital

SDF leadership announcing the liberation of new areas from ISIS in Syria's Hasakah. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

QAMISHLO – The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) revealed that in the near future operations will start to liberate Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIS).

According to the media office of the People’s Protection Units (YPG)–leading member of the SDF alliance–preparations are taking place, and the battle for Raqqa will start in the upcoming days.

A source close to the YPG stressed that families that escaped the ISIS-held Raqqa province in northeastern Syria demanded the liberation of their areas. 

“The Raqqa campaign will begin very soon,” the press office of the SDF said in a statement.

Speaking to ARA News in an exclusive interview, official spokesman of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Talal Silo said that the battle for Raqqa “is going to be difficult”, and that they might start it by carrying out an operation to liberate parts of the Raqqa countryside.

“Because it [Raqqa] is a stronghold for the ISIS, whenever we have liberated territories the Arab tribes would join us, and now there is preparation to form a military council for Raqqa, as what we did for Manbij city,” Silo said.

Kurdish officials told ARA News that Raqqa could either join the future federal region for northern Syria and Rojava, or could have an independent local administration, similar to the local canton administrations that are now running the Kurdish areas of Syria.

According to US-led coalition sources, the Islamic State radical group has recently declared a state of emergency in Raqqa. 

“We know this enemy feels threatened, as they should,” Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson Col. Steve Warren said on Thursday. “They see the Syrian Democratic Forces along with the Syrian Arab Coalition maneuver both to their east at Shaddadi [in Hasakah province] and to their west at the Tishrin Dam [northeastern Aleppo]. Both of these areas are becoming increasingly secure. And the Syrian Democratic Forces are increasingly able to generate their own combat power in those areas,” he said in a press conference.

“So, certainly we are seeing some reactions to this. We’ve had reports of ISIL [ISIS] repositioning both their combat capabilities, I guess what they think may be coming next. And we’ve seen reports of them repositioning personnel to various other — either within the city [Raqqa] or even out of the city,” Warren added.

The coalition official says eventually the ISIS-led Caliphate announced in June 2014 “will eventually collapse”.

“So, rightfully, ISIL understands that their days are increasingly numbered. We are going to continue to keep this pressure on them, and we expect to see them collapse eventually,” Col. Warren concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News 

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