Syrian Kurdish forces prepare to advance on Raqqa centre in days

FILE – Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters hold up their weapons in the north of Raqqa city, Syria.

A US-backed operation by Syrian forces to capture Raqqa, ISIL’s self-declared capital in Syira, will start in the next “few days”, the spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Saturday, AlJazeera reported.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of fighters led by the YPG and backed by the US-led coalition, has been encircling Raqqa since November in a multi-phased campaign to drive the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) from the city, AlJazeera added.

The assault on Raqqa will pile even more pressure on ISIL, with the hardline group facing defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul and being forced into retreat across much of Syria, where the province of Deir ez-Zor is its last major foothold, according to AlJazeera.

“The forces reached the outskirts of the city, and the major operation will start … in the coming few days,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters news agency by phone.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition against ISIL said it would not comment on the timeline for the next phase of operations to retake the Syrian city, located on the River Euphrates some 90 km (56 miles) from the Turkish border, AlJazeera added.

The spokesman, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said the SDF were “advancing closer and closer every day”, having moved to within 3 km of Raqqa to the north and east, it also indicated.

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