DEIR AL-ZOR, Syria (Kurdistan24) – The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reached the Euphrates between the two provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in an offensive to retake the areas from the Islamic State (IS), an SDF member said on Monday.
Speaking to Kurdistan24, Jihan Sheikh Ahmad, the spokesperson of the Raqqa offensive, said two SDF groups launched from two bases in northern Deir al-Zor met near the Euphrates.
“Our forces [SDF] liberated 1,762 square kilometers, including 46 villages and 147 farms in Raqqa Province, and also liberated 46 villages and 19 farms in Deir al-Zor Province,” she said.
Regarding the number of IS casualties, Ahmad said the SDF killed 172 insurgents and captured eight others.
Additionally, the SDF fighters were trying to join another group in northern Raqqa and meet on the Euphrates after liberating the strategic town of Abu Khashab in Deir al-Zor Province earlier this week.
“Both groups [of SDF] advanced 20 kilometers to the south of Abu Khashab and then met [near the Euphrates],” said Dijwar Khabat, an SDF commander.
Khabat told Kurdistan24 the third phase of the Raqqa operation was ongoing until its conclusion, namely separating Raqqa from Deir al-Zor.
He further pointed out the SDF may start a new phase of the offensive and besiege Raqqa from three sides.
On Nov. 5, 2016, the SDF launched a comprehensive operation, dubbed “Wrath of the Euphrates,” with the ultimate aim of capturing Raqqa.
On Dec. 10, 2016, the SDF began the second phase of the operation from the village of Qadiriya in northern Raqqa and reached the Euphrates Dam.
On Feb. 4, the SDF announced the launch of the third phase which ended after troops entered Deir al-Zor Province last week.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting from Deir al-Zor by Kurdistan24 correspondent Ekrem Salih embedded with the SDF)