The next phase of the Raqqa campaign was announced on Friday – the aim is to cut off the connection between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zur. Photo: SDF
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced the next step in their campaign to isolate the ISIS-held city of Raqqa, the aim of which is to cut the route between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zur.
“In this step of the move, we will rescue Raqqa’s east and isolate its connection with Deir ez-Zor,” reads a statement from the leadership of the Wrath of Euphrates military operation on Friday.
Deir ez-Zur lies 140 kilometres down the Euphrates River, to the southeast of Raqqa. The SDF are coordinating with the Deir ez-Zur Military Council in this phase of the operation. The local military council will “proceed from the eastern front,” the operation’s statement said.
“By this means we will not only give the people of Raqqa the news of liberation, but also the people of Deir ez-Zor.”
In the operation thus far, the US-backed SDF have taken control of territory north of ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital, imposing a crescent-shaped siege on the city. Originally dominated by Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their female counterparts the YPJ, the SDF have added many local Arab forces to their ranks throughout their campaign, including the 3,000-strong Syrian Elite Force that was trained by the US.
In an interview with the Qasioun News Agency last December, the head of the Deir ez-Zur Military Council, Abu Khawlah, said his force was formed by fighters from the Deir ez-Zur and Hasakah regions in order to liberate Deir ez-Zur.
The Pentagon announced on Friday that ISIS’ non-combat personnel, administrators and bureaucrats, have begun to flee their self-declared capital Raqqa, “moving their operations further down river,” in a manner Captain Jeff Davis, Pentagon spokesperson, described as organized.
“So they have definitely taken note of the fact that the end is near in Raqqa and we are seeing now an exodus of their leadership,” Davis told reporters, Reuters reported.
The Syrian Army controls a small amount of territory in Deir ez-Zur, including the airport. On Friday, the army reportedly killed 15 ISIS militants in the city and destroyed some of their vehicles, state-run SANA reported.
The global anti-ISIS coalition frequently carries out airstrikes in the area, often targeting ISIS oil operation and infrastructure. On Thursday, the coalition conducted 11 air strikes near Deir ez-Zur, destroying “20 oil tanker trucks, six oil wellheads, two artillery systems, and oil storage tank and a crane.”