Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) sit in the back of pick-up truck in the village of Hazima on the northern outskirts of ISIS's de facto capital of Raqqa on June 6, 2017. Photo: Delil Souleiman | AFP
Last updated at 1:30 p.m.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The joint command of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced Tuesday morning that the operation to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIS has resumed and that their forces are advancing on the radical group on three different directions.
“We have launched this operation against ISIS in Raqqa from the north, west and east,” SDF spokesman Talal Silo said in a press briefing, surrounded by armed fighters.
“Fighting and the operation actually started before the start of this press conference and our forces are moving ahead in all three directions,” revealed.
“The city has been cut off from north, east and west.” Silo added.
The SDF spokesman was confident of their success given their past operations against ISIS.
“And ISIS militants know that we can defeat terrorism and continue our fight. And we have the right weapons for this,” he said.
He added that the coalition forces have pledged the delivery of weapons needed for this operation.
“We also have an agreement with the coalition forces especially the United States that they will deliver weapons to us for this operation of the liberation of Raqqa.” Silo said.
Talal Silo, spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) speaks on the northern outskirts of Raqqa, Syria on June 6, 2017. Photo: Delil Souleiman | AFP
Silo dismissed reports that they had agreed to leave the southern front open for ISIS militants to escape.
“There is no truth to reports that we have an agreement with ISIS to open their southern front as a corridor. We shall not allow ISIS to escape,” he said.
“Our forces must surround the city and completely free it,” he promised.
Silo also said that “Elite forces will also participate in this operation but not with the SDF and rather as part of the international coalition.”
The coalition formally acknowledged the launch of the offensive, near where some 1,000 US Marines and other forces are operating in northern Syria.
"The International Coalition and our partner forces are steadily dismantling the physical caliphate of ISIS," said Lt Gen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition against ISIS. "Once ISIS is defeated in both Mosul and Raqqah, there will still be a lot of hard fighting ahead, but this Coalition is strong and committed to the complete annihilation of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria."
On the question of possible Syrian regime participation in the ongoing operations, Silo said: If regime forces had been able to launch an operation for Raqqa they would have done it. Neither the regime forces nor the Russians have moved one inch on that front.”
The YPG press office listed the groups participating in the city's liberation:
"The great war will begin with the participation of the Army of Revolutionaries (Jaysh al-Thuwar), Jabhat al-Akrad, Democratic al-Shamal Brigades, Tribal Forces, Maghawir Humus Brigades, Siqur al-Raqqa, Liwa al-Tahrir, Seljuk Turkmen Brigade, Hamam Turkmen Martyrs Battalion, Sanadid Forces, Syriac Military Council, Manbij Military Council, Deir ez-Zor Military Council, Self-Defense Forces, Asayish Forces, YPG/YPJ and Nuxbe Forces," read a statement.
"This battle is taking place with the help of the Raqqa Civilian Council, the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD), the tribal opinion leaders in the region, and also with the help of our people in the region."
A map shows Syrian Democratic Forces (in yellow) surrounding ISIS-held Raqqa city (in gray) on June 5, 2016. Photo: Raqqa Liberation FB
SDF alliance announces offensive operation to take Raqqa from ISIS
A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesperson announced the commencement of the operation to retake ISIS's de facto capital city of Raqqa, Syria.
SDF spokesman Talal Silo made the announcement shortly after 11:20 a.m. (local time) of the "great operation" flanked by the Syrian rebels' flag, as well as SDF and YPG flags among others.
"We urge Raqqa people to avoid ISIS positions," he said. "Thousands of Syrian people have been rescued from ISIS. All the preparations to launch the offensive have been finished."
The SDF explained "We will advance on Raqqa from three fronts. We will use weapons we took from the US-led coalition. If Russia and Syrian force were able to, they would advance."
The SDF is primarily comprised of Kurds aligned with the YPG. Additional components include the Syrian Arab Coalition, and Syrian Elite Force among others.
The Syriac Military Council (SMC) is one of the groups within the multi-ethnic, multi-religious SDF alliance. It is comprised of Syriac-Assyrian (Christians). The SMC says it will revenge "all of our martyrs, Syriacs, Kurds and Arabs" and raise "the flag of freedom and democracy as victory over the terrorists."
Announcement of Raqqa city offensive is imminent
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are expected to announce the Raqqa offensive to liberate ISIS’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq and Syria and its de facto capital in the coming hours on Tuesday.
The UK-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cites information from "reliable sources" that a new phase of "Wrath of the Euphrates led by the SDF with the participation of the Syrian Elite Forces [and] with the support of US Special Forces" aims to start the offensive "to enter" Raqqa city.
The Peoples' Protection Units in Syria (YPG) tweeted that SDF is "expected to issue a historical statement regarding the final phase of the Raqqa liberation campaign."
There has been no official announcement by the US-led international coalition or the SDF.
The spokesperson of the Wrath of Euphrates campaign to retake Raqqa, Jihan Sheikh Ahmad, is a native of Raqqa. She joined the YPG in 2011, according to biographical information about her published by the Raqqa campaign.
The United States has provided arms to the Kurdish-led forces in preparation for the Raqqa offensive.
“Obviously, they will face a threat that we believe is going to be very similar to what we've seen in Mosul. And these vehicle-borne IEDs, the up-armor types are going to be a threat,” said Dillon. “And we want to make sure our Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF], our partners, are prepared and ready for that.”
The UN estimates there are about 230,000 civilians living in Raqqa city.
On March 5, 2013 "rebels" who would later declare an "Islamic caliphate" took Raqqa.
Kurds began fighting back against extremism in Syria in late 2013.
SDF’s Wrath of the Euphrates Timeline
Correction: The second paragraph in the 11:25 a.m. update incorrectly stated that Talal Silo was flanked by "Syria's state flag" among others. In fact, Silo was flanked by many flags including a Syrian National Coalition / Syrian Interim Government flag, which is green, white and black with three red stars . It is used by the opposition or rebels to Bashar al-Assad's regime.