The village of Bir Said in the Raqqa countryside is now under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) put up heavy resistance before being pushed out.
Since it began, the SDF-led Operation Wrath of Euphrates has made significant progress across the Raqqa countryside, liberating the eastern banks of the Euphrates River in its entirety and pushing closer to ISIS’ capital city of al-Raqqah. However, despite its losses here and in the Aleppo countryside where the group’s stronghold of al-Bab has been besieged by the Turkish-led Operation EuphratesShield, it remains dangerous and capable of mounting heavy counterattacks. Indeed, the large quantities of weapons and ammunition recovered in recently-liberated villages such as Bir Said and Masharaqah highlights that the militants remain well-equipped despite heavy losses.
One such counterattack took place in the village of Alloush where ISIS militants attacked the SDF positions with car bombs and heavy weapons. In this instance, the SDF successfully repelled the attack, killing at least five ISIS militants in the process.
At present, Operation Wrath of Euphrates is making a two-pronged push towards al-Raqqah from Soulouk and Makhmanah. The SDF units involved have pushed 18 kilometres in the former and 16 kilometres in the latter. As a whole, they are 22 kilometres from the al-Raqqah city centre and are encountering heavy resistance from the militants around the village of Abe Sofa which is the next target of the SDF.
In conjunction with these gains, the international coalition continues to conduct airstrikes on ISIS positions across the Raqqa countryside. The most recent airstrikes have targeted the countryside north and east of al-Raqqah in a bid to clear the approach of the SDF units.
The operation to liberate al-Raqqah remains one of the most challenging tasks for the SDF. The city’s urban landscape will be an unfamiliar terrain for the SDF fighters who are more experienced in combat across plains and mountains. In addition, the largely-Kurdish force will need to gain the trust of the Sunni-Arab majority of the city if it is to hold it successfully. To this end, the SDF has been expanding its recruitment of Sunni Arabs from the Raqqa countryside.