February 19, 2018

Backed forces besiege IS militants in Raqqa

12 August 2017, 12:10 | Rufus Hill

Syrian Democratic Forces save 2 Armenian families from "Islamic State" terrorists

Syrian army closes in on IS-held town in Raqqa

The United Nations on Wednesday urged those fighting in Syria's Raqqa to remember "obligations to protect civilians", voicing concern over the tens of thousands of people still trapped without access to aid.

Over 200 fighters of the Syriac Military Council (MFS) now fight alongside other SDF factions in Western Raqqa to liberate the city from ISIS. The U.S. spokesman said this shows the steady progress the SDF fighters are making against Daesh in the militants' self-declared capital.

In a short statement on its official Twitter account, the SDF, an alliance of Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian fighters led by the Kurdish YPG group, said IS militants are besieged in the "last few areas they are still holding in Raqqa".

The al-Qaeda-linked militant group, the Levant Liberation Committee, captured the crossing after battles with the ultraconservative Syrian rebel Ahrar al-Sham group last month.

Erdogan said Turkey "cannot allow the passage of weapons", suggesting humanitarian aid has "practically turned into an armament process".

"Fighting in the tightly packed old city is particularly hard, with ISIS rigging buildings and even corpses with improvised explosives to try and stall the SDF advance", said Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for the USA -led counter ISIS coalition. She said however that the 2017 returns were less than the number of displaced this year: almost 809,000.

The U.N.'s migration agency says over 600,000 displaced Syrians have returned to their homes this year, citing an increasing trend of returns while warning the situation remains "not sustainable". "They've laid many mines, that's one of the biggest difficulties".

The AP team met the women and children at a camp for the displaced, run by Kurdish forces just north of Raqqa, after they managed to escape.

A USA -trained local police force of about 1,000 members is patrolling the liberated areas.

"The fighting is ongoing from room to room and from house to house", said Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media center.

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