SDF advances in vicinity of Raqqa against Islamic state

  • Dominika Jandová
  • 15.6.2017 07:54

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gained control over several strategic neighbourhoods of the city of Raqqa, where militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) are now surrounded by Kurdish forces. On Monday, 12 June, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias reached the walls of the Old City. US estimate that there are 3,000-4,000 IS fighters in the city, and up to 160,000 civilians, according to the UN.

SDF launched a major offensive to retake Raqqa on Monday, 5 June. The global coalition has a significant role in the success of operations, and the US has also begun to distribute weapons to Syrian Kurdish militias at the end of May. American support of the Kurds has been long disrupting relations with Turkey, that threatened with retaliation if the offensive was to pose a threat to Turkey. The coalition has also intensified air raids near Raqqa in recent weeks, which resulted in a sharp increase in civilian casualties. There has been an escalation of tension between the United States and the Syrian government and its allies over an area near the southeastern border with Iraq, where the US conducts training of local rebels to fight the IS. The pro-Assad alliance on Wednesday, 7 June, threatened to strike against the US positions should the US "cross the red line", and on Friday, according to the statement, reached the Iraqi border. This area is considered to be essential to Assad's Iranian allies since it could open a ground supply route from Teheran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The establishment of de-escalation zones in Syria negotiated by Russia, Turkey and Iran is delayed, Russian and US special envoys have been discussing their implementation in recent weeks, especially in Daraa province, southern Syria. Another round of Syrian peace talks in Astana was postponed to early July. In the southern city of Daraa, the Syrian army with Iran-backed militias intensified air raids and bombings of rebel forces during late last week, which is referred to as a possible prelude to an extensive campaign for full control of the city.

About author: Dominika Jandová

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