Members of the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) rest on the eastern outskirts of Raqqa on Tuesday, as part of the ongoing SDF offensive. Photo: Bulent Kilic | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have continued to progress deeper into ISIS-held parts of Raqqa city, where the UN believes around 40,000 people remain.
“We knew going in that Raqqa was going to be very hard,” US Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Tuesday. “There is not a consistent degree of progress in any military campaign, it’s a stop and go effort by its very nature.”
Davis was responding to questions about a slow-down in SDF’s progress in ISIS’ de facto capital and last major urban stronghold in Iraq and Syria.
The Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units in Syria (YPG) announced through its affiliated ANHA media “fierce clashes” late Tuesday night on all fighting axes in Raqqa.
The SDF “managed to advance and take control of the western part of Yarmouk neighborhood,” wrote the conflict monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Tuesday. The neighborhood is in the southwest of the city.
ANHA added that SDF forces entered the neighborhood of Nazleh Shihada after controlling the road that connects to the New Bridge — the western most bridge in the city.
"The organizational structure of Daesh collapses in the city of Raqqa with every step advanced by the Syrian forces' fighters," the SDF announced on Monday.
Meanwhile, according to the UK-based SOHR, the SDF has continued to battle ISIS militants in areas of the Old City and Hisham bin Abdul Malik — neighborhoods just north of the Euphrates.
“Operations to defeat Daesh in Raqqa continue. SDF claimed more than 35 square-kilometers from ISIS this week,” US Army Col. and coalition spokesperson Ryan Dillon wrote in a tweet on Monday. “SDF have not suspended operations; not true.”
Over the weekend, Syria's state-run SANA news agency reported it was told by an unnamed military source that the country's air force "inflicted heavy losses upon their [ISIS] ranks and equipment" in southwestern Raqqa province.
The UN on June 11 estimated “between 30,000 and 50,000 people remain trapped in Raqqa city – although certainty over numbers is difficult given the lack of access.”
The SDF now have full control of the south bank of the Euphrates and have completely encircled the extremist group’s self-proclaimed capital.
The offensive to take Raqqa from ISIS began on June 6. Beginning last November, the Kurdish-led SDF closed in on Raqqa from the countryside in the west, north, and east.
Last week, the United Nation’s Refugee Agency announced more than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa governorate since April 1.
UNHCR also announced the establishment of an overland aid route into the province where the agency estimates more than 430,000 people are in need.
“Regular deliveries along the newly opened route are planned from warehouses in Damascus, Homs and Aleppo,” stated the UNCHR.