AFP / by Delil Souleiman | A member of the US-backed Syrian
Democratic Forces stands at the Tabqa dam on May 11, 2017
(AFP) US-backed fighters said Friday they were
preparing for a final assault on the Islamic State groups Syrian
bastion Raqa, likely next month, after seizing a key city to the
The Syrian Democratic Forces earlier this week captured Tabqa
and an adjacent dam, a major prize in the offensive for Raqa, the
Syrian heart of ISs self-proclaimed caliphate.
The attack on Raqa will take place in the beginning of the
summer, Syrian Democratic Forces commander Rojda Felat told
She later specified that it would likely start in June based on
military and tactical considerations.
Felat spoke at a press conference in Tabqa, which the SDF
captured from IS on Wednesday along with its nearby dam in one of
its most important victories yet.
Tabqa lies on the banks of the Euphrates River, about 55
kilometres (34 miles) west of Raqa.
On Friday, an AFP team entered Tabqa and the adjacent dam Syrias
largest and saw rows of sandbags, mangled cars and craters from
heavy bombardment dotting the structure.
The battle for Tabqa was marked by fears that the dam would be
severely damaged and collapse, leading to massive flooding
The body of an alleged IS fighter was seen on Friday floating in
the artificial reservoir created by the dam.
US arms to arrive soon
The SDFs fight for Raqa dubbed Operation Wrath of the Euphrates
has already seen the alliance capture large swathes of the
surrounding province with help from the US-led coalition bombing IS
in Iraq and Syria.
The SDF are working to tighten the noose around Raqa before a
final assault. At their closest point, the US-backed forces are
just eight kilometres (five miles) from the city.
The joint Arab-Kurdish forces have received significant support
from the US-led coalition in the form of air strikes and special
SDF deputy head Qahraman Hassan said: In the beginning of the
summer, we will storm and liberate (Raqa) city.
His forces would receive special weapons and armoured vehicles
to enter the city, Hassan said, after President Donald Trump
changed US policy to allow arms deliveries to the SDFs Kurdish
No newly authorised aid had been delivered yet, Hassan said, but
he added that I believe this support will arrive soon.
The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units
(YPG), seen by the US as an indispensable ally in the...