BEIRUT – U.S.-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 ISIS’ de facto capital, officials said Friday.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launched a wide offensive to capture Raqqa on June 6.
So far the Western-backed fighters, under the cover of U.S.-backed coalition airstrikes, have captured half the city and linking up forces from the eastern and western fronts would be a major milestone in the battle for Raqqa.
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.
U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon tweeted that SDF forces have linked up “East-West axes” in Raqqa and are continuing to pressure IS.
“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 ISIS as human shields.
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