The SDF are now 28km from Raqqa. Photo: SDF/Facebook
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) pushing towards Raqqa on two axes from the north and the northwest have liberated several villages in recent days, bringing the two fronts together, they announced on Wednesday.
“Since the second phase of the campaign started, forces managed to liberate 57km on the Qadiriya axis and 34km from the centre of Ayn Issa,” reads a statement from the Raqqa campaign published on social media.
The military offensive, dubbed Wrath of Euphrates, was launched on November 5 and the second phase began December 10. The aim of the second phase is to clear ISIS from territory west of the city and retake the strategic Tabqa Dam.
Tabqa Dam, the largest in Syria, has been used by ISIS “as a headquarters, a prison for high profile hostages, and a training and indoctrination area for leaders since they seized control of it in 2013,” Col. John Dorrian, spokesperson for the Combined Joint Task Force of the global anti-ISIS coalition said last week.
In the second phase, the SDF have pushed towards Raqqa from Ayn Issa, 50 kilometres north of the city, on one front. A second front, from Qadiriya, about 65 kilometres northwest of Raqqa, has progressed along the Euphrates and Lake Assad.
On Wednesday afternoon, fighters on the two axes met in the village of Kurmanju and are now 28 kilometres from Raqqa, the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) stated on Facebook. The YPJ are one of the many forces fighting under the SDF flag in the campaign to push ISIS out of Raqqa.
With the SDF advancing north of the Euphrates River, which Raqqa sits on, they are creating a partial siege on the city.
“The fighters are applying a blockade in the form of a crescent on the city of Raqqa,” said campaign spokesperson Cihan Shekh Ahmed Wednesday on Facebook.
The two fronts of the SDF have met up northwest of Raqqa on Wednesday. Map: Raqqa campaign