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Syrian fighters win strategic victory near Raqqa

Saturday 12-08-2017 - 11:07 PM
News Agencies
US-backed Syrian
US-backed Syrian fighters advancing on the Islamic State group from the eastern and western parts of the northern city of Raqqa
Raqqa (Syria) - US-backed Syrian fighters advancing on the Islamic State group from the eastern and western parts of the northern city of Raqqa have linked up for the first time since launching their offensive on IS' de facto capital, officials said Friday. 


Though the development marked a significant milestone in the battle for the IS stronghold, a US military spokesman cautioned that there is still tough fighting ahead before Raqqa is completely taken from the militants. 


The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, under the cover of US-backed coalition airstrikes, launched a wide offensive to capture the city on June 6 and have managed so far to take about half the city. 


The linkup of the eastern and western fronts deprives IS from access to the Euphrates River — and effectively leaves the remaining militants in Raqqa and thousands of civilians surrounded. 


US Army Col. Ryan Dillon said there remains still tough fighting ahead and that although the linkup of the Syrian opposition fighters' east and west axis on the southern edge of Raqqa was significant, this does not in fact cut the city in two. 


Dillon told The Associated Press in an email that the significance is that the SDF, despite IS' best efforts, have successfully battled across the entire city from both sides and have joined forces. The US spokesman said this shows the steady progress the SDF fighters are making against IS in the militants' self-declared capital. 


"The fighting is ongoing from room to room and from house to house," said Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media center. Bali also confirmed that SDF fighters pushing from opposite sides of the city have met up. 


Bali said by telephone from northern Syria that the key difficulty facing advancing SDF fighters is to avoid striking civilians used by IS as human shields. 

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