U.S.-backed SDF controls 41 pct of IS stronghold in Syria's Raqqa

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-24 20:34:44|Editor: Song Lifang
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DAMASCUS, July 24 (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has controlled 41 percent of the Islamic State (IS) stronghold in Syria's northern city of Raqqa after launching nearly 50-day offensive there, a monitor group reported on Monday.

The battles for Raqqa have been raging for 49 days since the Kurdish-led SDF, with the heavy backing of the U.S.-led coalition, launched their major offensive to take Raqqa from IS, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The UK-based watchdog group said the SDF fighters are advancing and controlling more neighborhoods in Raqqa.

Over the span of seven weeks, the Kurdish-led groups captured all of the areas in western Raqqa, namely the neighborhoods of Sbahiyeh, Romaniyeh, Hiteen, Qadisiyeh and Yarmouk.

The SDF fighters also controlled the neighborhoods Mashlab, Btani, Sina'a and half of Hashem neighborhood as well as other areas in the eastern part of Raqqa.

The Observatory said the IS militants are now concentrated in the central part of the city.

This progress is a result of the heavy shelling of the U.S.-led coalition and the Kurdish-led groups on the IS positions, the Observatory added.

It said 940 civilians and militants have been killed over the past 50 days in Raqqa as a result of the intense shelling, violent battles, and explosions in Raqqa.

It said the IS position is now dwindling as a result of the SDF advance in Raqqa, and the progress of the Russia-backed Syrian army against the terror-designated group in the Syrian desert.

The battles raging on several fronts have shaked IS, which is under the fire of both the U.S.-led coalition and the Russians.

The group is now a target for the Syrians, backed by Russia, in the southern and eastern countryside of Raqqa, the countrysides of the central provinces of Homs and Hama, the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

The Kurdish-led U.S.-backed groups are also targeting IS in Raqqa and the northern province of Hasakah.

With the rapid retreat, the areas under IS control have dropped to only 22.40 percent of the Syrian territory.

The SDF is now controlling 22.51 percent of Syrian areas in northern Syria, stretching from the town of Manbej near the Turkish borders to areas in Raqqa, and some areas in Aleppo province.

The SDF also took three major dams in Syria on the Euphrates River, namely the Tishreen, Euphrates and Baath, as well as other dams in the Hasakah province.

It also took several border towns in the triangle of the Syrian-Iraqi-Turkish borders all the way to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

Now, the Syrian government forces are the most powerful group on the ground, controlling 38.39 percent of Syria, according to the Observatory.

Meanwhile, a well-informed source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the pace of the battles in Raqqa has slowed down, slower than when it began almost 50 days ago.

The source added that Turkish stance toward the Kurds is the main reason behind the slowing pace.

It has become obvious the Turkish army is amassing forces to launch an offensive against the town of Afreen in northern Aleppo province to fight the Kurdish groups there.

Such tension pushed the Jaish al-Thuwar, and Liwa al-Shamal al-Democraty groups, both are allies with the SDF, to leave the battle in Raqqa and head to Afreen to defend the city, which led to a decline in the pace of battles in Raqqa.

The source said that the Kurdish-led groups are urging Washington to take a decisive stance toward the Turkish threats, saying that the Kurdish group doesn't see any meaning of taking Raqqa if the Turkish managed to capture Afreen.

Some activists also contributed the slowed pace of the battles in Raqqa to the big losses suffered by the SDF as a result of the explosions carried out by IS in defending its stronghold in the city, adding that the U.S.-led coalition asked the Kurdish-led groups to keep besieging the city until new reinforcements arrive.