US-backed Syrian forces close in on Raqqa from south

US-backed Syrian forces close in on Raqqa from south
Syrian Democratic Forces fighters greet a field commander, center, near Raqqa city, in this June 7 photo. (Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2017

US-backed Syrian forces close in on Raqqa from south

US-backed Syrian forces close in on Raqqa from south

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian militias closed in on Daesh’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa on Wednesday, taking territory on the south bank of the Euphrates River with the aim of encircling the city, a militia spokesman told Reuters.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes Arab and Kurdish fighters and are supported with airstrikes by a US-led coalition, began an offensive two weeks ago to seize the northern city from Daesh, which overran it in 2014.
Nouri Mahmoud, spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia, which is part of the SDF, told Reuters Daesh had been ousted from the suburb of Kasrat Al-Farj as the SDF moved in along the southern riverbank from the west.
When the campaign began the SDF had Raqqa, which sits on the Euphrates’ northern bank, surrounded from the north, west and east. Although Daesh controlled the south bank of the river, coalition airstrikes had destroyed the bridges connecting it to the city.
The SDF is now trying to enact a siege of the city by taking the southern bank. The forces are a couple of kilometers from achieving this aim.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said on Wednesday SDF forces had moved along the southern riverbank to reach the eastern edge of Kasrat Al-Farj, in the area between the new and old bridges into Raqqa.
Daesh is also facing defeat in its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul and is being forced into retreat across much of Syria, where Deir Al-Zor in eastern Syria is its last major foothold.
After Daesh
Meanwhile, local Syrians who have escaped the battlefield are worried about what comes after the fight.
Dozens of them have volunteered to help rebuild the town once the militants have been defeated.
The aim of organization they have joined, the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC), is to restore order and keep the peace in a place where further violence could fuel the rise of a new set of extremists with global ambitions.
The RCC was established in April by Kurdish and Arab allies of the US-led coalition that began attacking Raqqa this month, to replace militant rule in a part of Syria long beyond President Bashar Assad’s control.
The campaign against Daesh has accelerated since US President Donald Trump took office in January with the militants now facing defeat in both Raqqa and Mosul in Iraq.