The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday secured dozens of civilians after clashes with Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants in the Old City of Raqqa, in northeastern Syria.
“More than 100 civilians were freed by SDF fighters from the Raqqa Old City today,” SDF officer Habun Osman told ARA News.
“ISIS terrorists have been using these civilians as human shields to impede our progress in Raqqa,” the Kurdish officer said.
In the meantime, clashes intensified between the Syrian Democratic Forces and ISIS militants in Raqqa city.
“At least nine ISIS jihadists were killed in Tuesday’s clashes near the Old City,” Osman told ARA News.
Military sources reported that the SDF is currently trying to open safe passages for civilians stranded in ISIS-held parts of Raqqa, in a bid to minimise civilian casualties in the ongoing battle.
Doctor Nasr Haji Mansour, a senior SDF advisor, told ARA News in an exclusive interview that ISIS had been expelled from 25% of Raqqa. His statement corresponds with those recently given by Coalition commanders.
“More than 25% of Raqqa city has been liberated from ISIS,” Dr Mansour confirmed. “It looks like [the Raqqa operation] will go on a little bit longer; maybe another month if surprises don’t happen.”
This comes after the SDF launched a major operation to liberate the city of Raqqa from ISIS radicals.
Raqqa has been known as a de facto capital for the ISIS self-proclaimed Caliphate since the summer of 2014.
On June 6, the Syrian Democratic Forces announced the official start of the battle for Raqqa city.
Isolating ISIS Capital
The Kurdish-Arab-Christian alliance of SDF has been isolating Raqqa since November 2016, when the US-backed alliance launched the so-called Euphrates Wrath Operation.
During the first phase of Euphrates Wrath, which began on November 6, 2016, the SDF liberated roughly 560 km² in Northern Raqqa.
On 10 December, 2016, the SDF launched the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath, during which it captured over 2500 km² in Western Raqqa.
On 4 February, 2017, the Syrian Democratic Forces launched the third phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation, and liberated dozens of villages in Eastern Raqqa from ISIS jihadists.
The campaign is ultimately aimed at liberating the city of Raqqa from ISIS extremists.