Middle East Syrian Kurdish-Arab forces approach central Raqqa

Syrian Kurdish-Arab forces approach central Raqqa
A locally-made armored vehicle belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stand in a newly liberated neighborhood in Raqqa city, Syria, June 14, 2017. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

RAQQA, Syria (Kurdistan24) – The US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria announced on Thursday they liberated two neighborhoods near the center of the IS’ de facto capital of Raqqa.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of Kurdish and Arab forces supported by a US-led coalition, told Kurdistan24 they control the industrial area on the east side of Raqqa and Der’iya neighborhood on the southwest side near the center of the city.

A fighter who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they engaged in heavy clashes with IS militants in the southwest parts of the city.

Mahmoud Isa, an SDF fighter revealed the mechanisms used by IS in fighting for territories.

“Daesh [IS] uses drones carrying explosives, and they use car bombs as well to impede our progression,” Isa said.

He added, “Daesh terrorists plant mines in houses and streets and use civilians as human shields.”

SDF has reported no casualties so far but reports that dozens of IS militants have been killed. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the Syrian conflict using sources on the ground confirmed SDF reports.

Regarding the civilian casualties, UN war crimes investigators said on Wednesday that intensified coalition air strikes have killed at least 300 civilians in Raqqa since March.

"As the operation is gaining pace very rapidly, civilians are caught up in the city under the oppressive rule of IS, while facing extreme dangers associated with movement due to excessive air strikes," said Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry.

The SDF, which the Syrian Kurdish YPG is a key component of, began to attack Raqqa a week ago to take it from the jihadists.

The SDF, supported by heavy coalition air strikes, has taken territories to the west and east and broke into the north of the city yesterday.

 

Editing by Ava Homa 

(Additional reporting by Ekrem Salih, Kurdistan24 correspondent embedded with the SDF in Raqqa)

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