Syrian Democratic Forces within a few miles of Islamic State’s central position in Syria
UPDATE 1630 GMT: The Syrian Democratic Forces say they have taken part of Raqqa city for the first time, capturing the eastern district of al-Mashlab.
The Kurdish-led, US=supported Syrian Democratic Forces said on Monday that the final assault on the Islamic State’s central position in Syria, the city of Raqqa, will begin soon.
“[We] will announce tomorrow the date of the start of the fifth stage of the campaign to liberate Raqqa which will include an assault on the city of Raqqa,” the SDF said in a statement.
Ibrahim Ibrahim, the European spokesman for the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Party (PYD), confirmed, “[The SDF] will enter the city and begin attacking Raqqa directly.”
The offensive, launched this spring after months of delay for political reasons, has closed within a few miles of the entrance to the city, held by ISIS since late 2013. Last month, the SDF took the town of Taqba and the nearby dam, the largest in Syria. Last weekend, the SDF captured the Baath Dam on the Euphrates River, about 25 km (16 miles) from Raqqa.
On Monday, the SDF continued to advance, taking three more villages north of Raqqa. It said at least 36 ISIS fighters were killed.
Video from the Kurdish militia YPG, which leads the SDF, of the capture of the town of Mansoura last week:
The US has provided airstrikes, special forces, and weapons for the SDF’s fight against the Islamic State since late 2015. However, Turkish objects to the presence of the YPG, which it considers part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.
The Trump Administration has overruled Ankara’s objections, authorizing the Raqqa offensive and publicly confirming the US arms supplies for the SDF.
Colonel Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the US-led coalition, said on Monday:
The SDF has gained about 350 square kilometers from ISIS in the last week. The SDF is poised around Raqqa. They’re within 3 km of Raqqa City from the north and the east, and are about 10 km from the city to the west
Dillon said the SDF and its Raqqa Civilian Council have asked civilians remaining in Raqqa to leave. The UN says more than 200,000 have already left, and hundreds have been killed in the area — many by US airstrikes — since the beginning of the offensive.
The Islamic State has been pushed over the past 18 months by the SDF, by Syrian rebels, and by pro-Assad forces. With the loss of Raqqa, it will be concentrated in Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria on the Iraqi border.
TOP PHOTO: Fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces in Mansoura, captured from the Islamic State last week
Rebels Countered Repeated Pro-Assad Attempts to Advance in East Ghouta
Local sources confirm this footage, from pro-opposition Orient News, that rebels have rebuffed seven attempts by pro-Assad forces to take the village of Hosh in al-Dawahra in the East Ghouta area near Damascus.
Spanish Court Seizes 1 Billion Euros from Assad’s Uncle Rifaat
A Spanish court has seized European properties, worth 1 billion Euros ($1.13 billion) from Bashar al-Assad’s uncle Rifaat.
The proceedings began in early 2017 with a request from the French Customs Service to the Spanish Civil Guard. Property taken includes Spain’s most valuable parking lot, in Malaga, and a luxury hotel and the last area for development in Marbella.
Rifaat al-Assad, nicknamed the “Butcher of Hama” for his oversight of the killing of tens of thousands of people in Syria’s fourth-largest city in 1982, fled the country in 1984 after a claimed coup attempt against his brother Hafez, father of the current Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Video: Free Syrian Army on Battle for Daraa City
A Free Syrian Army commander describes the battle for Daraa city, in southern Syria on the Jordanian border:
A rebel offensive has advanced farther in the city, divided since early in the Syrian conflict, and taken most of the strategic Manshiyah district. Pro-Assad forces have tried to hold back the rebels with hundreds of airstrikes and barrel bombings.
Syria’s uprising began in Daraa in March 2011, with protests over the detentions and abuse of teenagers who wrote graffiti on walls.