SDF Controls 3 Dams as Syria Regime Nears Raqqa

"In addition to warplanes, there are coalition forces working side by side with the SDF", Silo said by phone from the Hukoumiya farms area, 10 km (6 miles) north of Raqqa, where the SDF later declared the start of the assault.

USA -backed Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State will announce the start date for the final assault on Raqqa city on Tuesday, aiming to oust the militants from their de facto capital in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the military branch of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), started a US-backed offensive on Raqqa on June 2 and Turkey had been informed about the operation before it started. The commander of the fight against ISIS, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, cheered the development in a statement, saying that the loss of both of the group's one-time strongholds will stymy its ability to recruit. "ISIS threatens all our nations, not just Iraq and Syria, but in our homelands as well".

In other remarks, Yildirim stated Americans had assured him their cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish forces was "tactical and out of a short-term necessity".

Pro-Assad Shia militias backed by Iran have historically operated in that area.

US President Donald Trump authorized the shipment of heavy weapons and armored vehicles to the YPG a week before a mid-May meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It said they were likely carried out by the USA -led coalition.

Washington views the YPG as the most effective fighting force against IS.

State news agency SANA reported on Tuesday that the airstrikes by the USA -led coalition killed 12, including women and children.

The same route leading out of the city's southern districts has been used by IS fighters, Abdel Rahman said.

"This will be dense urban terrain as they (SDF) go in and there will be many civilians", Pentagon spokesperson Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Tuesday.

He declined to put a timeline on the operation.

SDF fighters began advancing towards Raqqa in November, capturing wide areas of northern Syria from the extremists. It says the families were fleeing the city in boats across the Euphrates River ahead of an expected all-out attack by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

"That has been very hard, because ISIS is holding people in".

  • Jack Mann