The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have captured more than 18% of Raqqa city, according to Coalition officials. On June 6, the SDF began the battle for Raqqa by investing its eastern and western suburbs.
In an exclusive interview with ARA News, Colonel Joe Scrocca confirmed the SDF’s rapid advance. The US colonel also serves as the Coalition’s Director of Public Affairs.
“The SDF is making significant progress on several axes against heavy ISIS resistance in Raqqa and has liberated approximately 18% of the city thus far,” Col Scrocca explained.
The colonel refused “to put a timeline on these efforts” but struck a positive note, saying that “the liberation of Raqqa will be a significant achievement in the Coalition’s mission to defeat [ISIS] by, with, and through our partner forces.”
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the anti-ISIS Coalition, said on Wednesday that the battle for Raqqa was just getting under way. “I think we’re in the first 25-30% of the campaign for Raqqa […] We’re just getting started.”
On July 3, the Syrian Democratic Forces breached the Old City of Raqqa by opening two small gaps in Rafiqah Wall. The wall was erected in the seventh century and surrounds the Old City, where ISIS militants are entrenched.
“ISIS fighters were using the historic wall as a fighting position and planted mines and improvised explosive devices at several of the breaks in the wall,” the Coalition said in a statement.
“SDF fighters would have been channeled through these locations and were extremely vulnerable as they were targeted with vehicle-borne IEDs and indirect fire,” the statement continued. In addition, SDF troops would have been exposed to “direct fire from heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and snipers.”
Colonel Ryan Dillion, a Coalition spokesman, contrasted the Islamic State’s scorched earth tactics with those employed by the US and its partners. “Unlike ISIS who deliberately destroyed the ruins of Palmyra and the Al-Nuri mosque […] Coalition forces are making a great effort to protect civilians and preserve these sites for future generations.”
Col Dillion added that “the most humane way to save the people of Raqqa is to swiftly and decisively defeat ISIS, those who have terrorized the people of Raqqah for more than three years.”
Raqqa has been the Islamic State’s de facto capital since the summer of 2014. The would-be Caliphate moved parts of its administration to the city, shortly before the battle for Mosul.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a polyethnic alliance of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians, began isolating Raqqa in November 2016. This US-backed campaign is known as Operation Euphrates Wrath.
There have been intense clashes in several locations in Raqqa between Syrian Democratic Forces and ISIS gangs since last night.
In clashes to the south of the city, in Hisham Abd Al-Malik neighborhood 17 gang members were killed and one explosive-laden vehicle. 3 fighters were martyred and 2 others were wounded.
In the Qadisiya neighborhood to the west of Raqqa, the gangs attempted an attack in the early morning hours. The attack was pushed back as the fighters noticed in time. Meanwhile, the fighters’ advance continues in Raqqa Old Town, entered 3 days ago. The fighters have surrounded the historic mosque and the gangs are trapped in the area.
There are also intense clashes in the al-Barid neighborhood to the north of the city. 19 gang members were killed and 2 vehicles were destroyed. 2 SDF fighters were martyred and 3 fighters were wounded.
The operation to liberate Raqqa started on June 6 and still continues.