DAMASCUS, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The strategic Euphrates Dam has been rendered out of service, as a result of battles between the Islamic State (IS) group and U.S.-backed rebels in northern Syria, official source told Xinhua on Sunday.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been pushing toward the city of Tabqa, where the dam is located, in the western countryside of the northern province of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the IS.
The U.S.-led anti-terror coalition has been heavily backing the SDF in their push toward Tabqa, which will be the first to fall out of the IS control to the Kurdish-led groups before the beginning of the battle against Raqqa city itself early next month.
The SDF has airdropped forces with the help of the U.S. forces near the dam a few days ago, in order to take control of that facility.
Reported U.S. strikes on the facility has damaged several parts of it, which could threaten a major flood on nearby areas.
The head of the Euphrates Dam, Najim Saleh, told Xinhua on Sunday that the shelling of the U.S. coalition is the reason behind the damage that has befallen the dam, in terms of its hydroelectric station and other parts of that key facility.
"There is a major damage to the dam and the hydroelectric system, which led to the dam going out of service in terms of storing and releasing water," he said.
The recent damages are now in the distribution yard, and the operation room, he said.
Regarding the threats of the damaged dam, he said that the water levels are now low, but if it accumulated for three days, it will have no releasing mechanism and that will be a problem.
He said that there are initiative for fixing the damage of the dam through local delegations in the city, which is under IS control.
"If the dam wasn't repaired, it will be turned into a dead mass and the areas surrounding the dam will be endangered, as these areas stretches between Raqqa, Deir Zour, and Aleppo countryside," he said.
He said the dam controls 13 billion square meters of water in the Assad Lake, which derives its water from the Euphrates River.
The dam is 60 meters high and 4.5 kilometers long and is the largest dam in Syria. Its construction led to the creation of Lake Assad, Syria's largest water reservoir.
It was constructed between 1968 and 1973 with help from then the Soviet Union.
Another source in the city of Hasakah in northern Syria, who has close knowledge with the situation of the Kurdish attack on Raqqa and Tabqa, also told Xinhua on Sunday that the strikes of the U.S. forces was the reason behind the damage to the dam.
However, the military spokesman of the SDF, Brigadier General Talal Silo, told Xinhua that the U.S. didn't strike the dam.
"The dam hasn't been targeted by the U.S.-led coalition," he told Xinhua on Sunday.
Silo noted that the operations against IS near the dam are "slow out of our concern for the dam."
He said that Turkey hasn't been allowing water from the Euphrates to enter the Syrian areas in the north for over a month, as the river stems from Turkey, to Syria and Iraq.
He added that when the SDF capture the dam, it will fix it and re-operate it to provide water and electricity to the areas it used to serve in northern Syria.
Meanwhile, pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV cited sources from Raqqa as saying that the IS militants were urging people to leave Raqqa for fear of further damage that will have the entire city drowned.
Silo said the IS militants were disseminating false propaganda to tarnish the reputation of the SDF.
He said that the SDF entered the Tabqa airbase in the city, and currently engaged in battles with the IS in and around the base, whose recapture will facilitate the move toward the dam in that area.
Silo added that the facility will be declared liberated from IS within hours.
He said the achievement comes with the help of only the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition, a main backer to the Kurdish groups in northern Syria.
He said that the Syrian army is not part of the attack on Tabqa.
The push by the U.S.-backed SDF toward the city of Tabqa and the nearby areas is part of a major offensive against Raqqa.
The first stage of the attack, which started a few months ago, aimed at isolating Raqqa from Tabqa and other IS positions in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.
Kurdish officials said earlier in the day that the battle against Raqqa city itself will start early next month.
Meanwhile, Silo said that the airport needs reparation, stopping short of elaborating whether the U.S. will be using this airfield as a base for its forces, who have been either airdropped or crossed from Iraq to aid the Kurds in their push against the IS strongholds based on a new Pentagon plan against IS.
The Tabqa Air Base has a strategic value for the SDF, as it will enable this Kurdish-led groups to tighten the noose on IS militants in the city of Tabqa from three directions.
There are also reports that the U.S.-led collation could plan to use the base to provide supplies for SDF units in the upcoming battle of Raqqa.
Silo said the Tabqa airport will be the first to be controlled by the SDF, noting that the airfield had been used before for military, and civilian aviation.
The Syrian army withdrew from that airbase in August 2014, the same year IS declared its caliphate in Raqqa and took this city as its capital.