Damascus, Syria. The US-backed Syrian forces have advanced into opposite sides of Daesh’s Syrian capital of Raqqa, the forces announced on Saturday. The US-led coalition estimates that Raqqa, which Daesh seized from Syrian rebels in 2014 during their lightning advance in Syria and Iraq, is defended by 3,000 to 4,000 jihadists.
Over 10 people were killed and dozens injured on Saturday when jets believed to belong to the US-led coalition hit the city’s main Nour Street in the centre of the commercial area, they said.The other strike that killed at least 14 people was in the western neighbourhood of Jazra, where jets targeted an internet cafe, according to Mujab Gohelle, an exile from Raqqa in touch with relatives and friends.
A news agency affiliated to Daesh, released images of what is said were white phosphorus munitions lighting the city of Raqqa that were dropped by the US-led coalition. The agency said 33 people were killed and 25 injured in a series of American raids overnight.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a US-led coalition, began to attack Raqqa on Tuesday after a months-long campaign to cut it off. The city has been a hub both for Daesh’s military leaders and its officials. It also has been used to plot attacks in countries around the world.
SDF claims it has seized al-Mishlab district in the far east of Raqqa on Friday and al-Sabahia district in the west. The war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the SDF had taken Mishlab and more than half of Sabahia.
The forces are now advancing into al-Romania district in northwest Raqqa, the SDF and the Observatory said. Daesh had turned back an earlier SDF assault on a military base on the north side, Russian intelligence sources said.
Ex-residents in touch with relatives in the beleaguered city said at least 50 people, mostly civilians, were killed in escalating US-led air strikes in the last 24 hours on residential areas inside the city. The US-led coalition does not deny using incendiary bombs and says casualties are unavoidable even as it tries to minimise the impact of its military campaign on civilians.
Forces from Daesh still hold a long swath of territory along Syria’s Euphrates valley and wide stretches of desert, despite recent losses to the SDF, the Syrian army and rebel groups. The Assad government has described the SDF’s war against Daesh as “legitimate” and said its military priorities are further east, suggesting it does not plan to confront the group now with talks underway between Moscow and Washington.