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SDF make advance northeast of Raqqa, airstrikes destroy bridges south of the city

By Rudaw 5/2/2017
SDF make advance northeast of Raqqa, airstrikes destroy bridges south of the city
Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces gather near a village northeast of Raqqa on Friday. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) say they have advanced 10 km northeast of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of ISIS on Saturday after liberating a village and three hamlets. Meanwhile, a Syrian monitoring group reported that two main bridges located south of Raqqa were destroyed in airstrikes on Friday to cut ISIS supply routes. 

The US-backed SDF announced the third stage of the operation to isolate and eventually defeat ISIS in Raqqa on Saturday.

They are now 24 km away from the ISIS capital from the northeast, the SDF-affiliated Hawar news reported. 

This comes as the anti-ISIS global coalition said that it conducted 20 strikes near Raqqa on Friday, including targeting an ISIS headquarters and 16 supply routes.

The the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported on Sunday morning that two bridges on the Euphrates River south of Raqqa were destroyed in airstrikes on Friday. It said “reliable sources confirmed to the Observatory that the operation to target the two main bridges, and other bridges around Raqqa came as attempts to prevent the Islamic State from bringing military reinforcements to the city of Raqqa.”  


It added that six ISIS militants were also killed in these attacks on the two bridges.

The Observatory also reported airstrikes west of Raqqa in the Mansouriyah area, believed to be carried out by the US-led international coalition, while also stating that airstrikes have hit Tabqa town, close to the ISIS-held strategic dam with the same name, about 55 km west of Raqqa.

It claimed that the airstrikes in Tabqa town have led to a number of injuries and reported that a number of civilians may have been killed.

The SDF forces, supported by coalition airstrikes, engaged in clashes with the extremist group around Bier al Saeid and the road leading to Kaltah village, northeast of Raqqa, the Observatory said. 

The Kurdish-led multi-ethnic SDF forces announced on Saturday the commencement of the third phase of the campaign to oust ISIS from their self-declared capital Raqqa. 

The primary goal of this phase is the complete isolation of Raqqa and clearing territory east of the city, Cihan Shekh Ahmed, spokesperson of the general command of the Wrath of Euphrates operation, announced in a press conference. 

The US-led coalition is providing air support, advice, training, and material support to the Syrian Arab Coalition (SAC), one of the elements fighting within the ethnically diverse SDF.

“The SAC is made of about 23,000 fighters, 13,000 of which are vetted. These are the only ones we train and equip,” the press office of the coalition confirmed to Rudaw English by email. 

In late January, the coalition and the SDF confirmed that the coalition had provided armoured vehicles to the SAC. 
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