The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Wednesday its campaign to capture Raqa from Daish was in its final stages and its fighters had seized 80 per cent of the city.
In its fight against a separate operation waged by the Syrian army and its allies, Daish has collapsed along the west bank of the Euphrates downstream of Raqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.
Daish has lost swathes of territory in Syria this year, attacked from the north by the SDF and from the west by the Syrian army, which has pushed it back across the desert to its last strongholds in the Euphrates valley.
The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, launched its offensive on the rebel group in Raqa city in June, backed by US-led air strikes and special forces on the ground. The city had served as Daish’s de facto capital in Syria.
In a statement on Wednesday, the SDF said it had opened a new front against the Daish on the northern edge of Raqa. This was “a feature of the final stages of the Euphrates Wrath campaign, which is nearing its end”.
“We can say that 80 per cent of the city of Raqa has been liberated,” the statement said.
An SDF media official said the main obstacles facing the alliance in Raqa are avoiding civilian casualties and a high concentration of mines. He estimated that 700 to 1,000 Daish fighters remain in the city. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that Daish now controls only 5 per cent of the city and its remaining militants there have nearly run out of food and munitions.
In Deir Al Zor province of eastern Syria, Daish is battling two separate offensives, launched by the SDF on one side and the Syrian army and its allies on the other.
The Syrian army, backed by Russian and Syrian war planes, has captured about 100km of the west bank of the Euphrates this month, reaching Raqa provincial border on Wednesday, the Observatory reported. Syrian troops also crossed to the eastern side of the river on Monday. The SDF’s advances have been on the eastern bank of the river.
The convergence of the two rival offensives has increased tensions in Deir Al Zor. The US-backed militia on Monday warned against any further Syrian army advances on the eastern riverbank.
Meanwhile, Daish mortar shells targeted an Iranian aid convoy to areas recently captured by the Syrian army and its allies in Deir Al Zor, a military media unit run by the government’s ally Hezbollah said.
The mortar injured one person and caused material damage, Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television reported, but the convoy, carrying over 1,000 tonnes of aid, was not damaged, it said.