Members of the YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces in a distrcit of Raqqa on June 11. Photo: Delil Souleiman | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance of fighters primarily has made gains into parts of western Raqqa continuing into Monday morning, while issuing an ultimatum to remaining ISIS militants garrisoned at an old army base to surrender or “fight to the end.”
Syrian forces “almost completely” took control of the al-Romaniyah neighborhood on Saturday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) conflict monitor. What remains to be liberated is a river islet in southwestern Raqqa along the Euphrates.
AFP reported its photojournalist Delil Souleiman, who has been embedded with US-backed coalition Syrian partnered forces on the western side of the city, as saying SDF and Syrian Elite Forces (SEF) “seized control of al-Romaniyah and nearby Al-Sabahiya.”
The SDF is comprised of many groups including its majority force, the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG).
Romaniyah is a neighborhood in the northwestern part of the city where the northern Raqqa-Tabqa road intersects with the main north-south road in Raqqa that eventually connects to the New Bridge that spans the Euphrates.
“To the South is the Euphrates River and with bridges that cannot be used to cross, ISIS is limited to using water craft to move in to or out of Raqqah,” Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesperson of the anti-ISIS coalition, told reporters on Thursday. “ Understanding this the coalition conducted several strikes this week, destroying 20 boats, attempting to shuttle ISIS fighters across the river.”
Local reports indicate that both the New Bridge in the west and and Old Bridge in the east have been destroyed.
SDF fighters entered western Mosul’s Huteen neighborhood just south of Romaniyah, the Kurdish ANHA news agency reported on Monday.
AFP wrote Souleiman had seen the western axis littered with mangled motorcycles and unexploded mortar rounds.
It claimed there have been reported talks on ISIS’s withdrawal from Raqqa akin to the deal in Tabqa. The agency described ISIS’s defense of the city as not “fierce” yet, when compared to Mosul.
The SDF with Syrian Elite Forces captured parts of eastern Raqqa’s industrial district near al-Mashalab in the southeast on Saturday, SOHR reported. SDF forces then continued westward into neighboring al-Sinaa where they “managed to control several areas,” SOHR reported on Monday.
The SDF has also warned ISIS to withdraw from an army base that had been used by Syria's Division 17 to the north or it will be “engaged in a fight to the end,” according to SOHR.
ISIS media claimed it recently had captured and kidnapped YPG members on the northwestern outskirts of the city, although there was no confirmation from YPG.
On June 6, the SDF alliance announced the commencement of the fifth phase of its Wrath of the Euphrates military offensive to control ISIS’s self-declared capital.
The UN estimates there are about 230,000 civilians living in Raqqa city. The coalition estimates the “enemy force inside Raqqah is about 2,500.”
On March 5, 2013 "rebels" who would later declare an "Islamic caliphate" first took Raqqa.