SDF carried out a successful nighttime airdrop mission crossing the Euphrates River near Tabqa Tuesday night. Photo: YPG press office
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The successful airdrop operation crossing the Euphrates River near Tabqa demonstrates the experience of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their relationship with the international coalition, said the spokesperson for the SDF’s campaign to isolate Raqqa, as the forces prepare for an offensive to take Tabqa dam.
This was the first time SDF carried out such an operation, Cihan Shekh Ahmed said in a statement published on social media Thursday afternoon, pointing out that it indicated the strength of the SDF’s abilities and the extent of cooperation between them and the coalition forces.
Coalition helicopters airdropped US special forces and SDF fighters near Tabqa, a strategic town 40 kilometres west of Raqqa, announced a statement on Wednesday from the SDF’s Wrath of Euphrates military campaign to isolate and liberate Raqqa.
The coalition’s media office confirmed the operation in a statement issued Wednesday evening, saying it was led by the SDF in coordination with the Syrian Arab Coalition and supported by the coalition.
“The Coalition supported this offensive with air movement and logistical support, precision airstrikes, Apache helicopters in close air support, Marine artillery, and special operations advice and assistance to SDF leadership,” the statement detailed, hailing the “audacity and courage” of the SDF.
In the operation, the SDF were able to take control of several villages on the southern bank of the Euphrates to the west of Tabqa town. They also cut the road linking Raqqa with Aleppo.
The coalition has also supported the SDF with heavy air power, carrying out 63 airstrikes between March 19 and 22 in the Raqqa area, according to the coalition’s daily strike reports.
The SDF’s aim is to take control of Tabqa dam, east of Tabqa town. The dam is a strategic site that has been used by ISIS as a headquarters, training location, and prison.
Local farmers, however, told AFP that they are scared coalition air raids could damage the dam or that ISIS may blow it up. Either eventuality would cause a catastrophic flood. The dam has already taken some damage in the conflict.
“The Coalition will take every precaution to ensure the dam's integrity,” the media office’s statement vowed.
The activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, winners of an International Press Freedom Award in 2015, reported tens of civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes in the Raqqa region in recent days and noted that there are no functioning hospitals to provide medical services in the area.
Independent monitor Airwars.org has also reported several incidents of civilian casualties in Tabqa in the last few days. “Between ten and 15 civilians died and 20 or more were injured in alleged Coalition airstrikes on multiple location in al-Tabaqa,” on March 19, and another 11 were reported killed in at least two incidents on March 20, according to Airwars.org.