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US-backed forces announce ‘great battle’ to capture Syria’s Raqqa

The Syrian Democratic Forces said they were launching a new phase in their assault on the Raqa. (Syrian Democratic Forces, via AP, File)
HAZIMA, SYRIA: The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said on Tuesday they were launching a new phase in their assault on the Daesh group’s bastion Raqqa, after advancing to the city’s outskirts.
“We declare today the start of the great battle to liberate the city of Raqqa, the so-called capital of terrorism and terrorists,” SDF spokesman Talal Sello told reporters in the village of Hazima, north of the city.
With air support from a US-led coalition, the SDF has spent months sealing off the jihadists in Raqqa, the heart of their territory in war-ravaged Syria.
By Tuesday morning, the Arab-Kurdish alliance was attacking the city from the north, west and east, Sello said.
“With the international coalition’s warplanes and the state-of-the-art weapons they provided to us, we will seize Raqqa from Daesh,” Sello told AFP.
He asked civilians inside the city to keep away from Daesh positions and from the front lines.
As the SDF has drawn closer to the city, reports of civilian casualties in coalition air strikes have swelled.
On Monday, the Observatory said a coalition bombing raid killed 21 civilians as they tried to escape Raqqa by dinghy on the Euphrates River.
The same route had been used by Daesh fighters, Abdel Rahman said.
More than 320,000 people have been killed and millions more have fled their homes since the civil war erupted in Syria in March 2011.

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