Full Liberation of Raqqa May Take Several Months, Says SDF Commander
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander said full liberation of the Islamic State (ISIS)-held city of Raqqa may take several months, as the fighters continue advancing in the city.
The SDF fighters moved through the southern neighborhoods of Raqqa on Tuesday (August 15) as they continue their assault on the militants in the area.
Advances in the multi-phased Raqqa offensive are proceeding cautiously however, officials say, as ISIS uses snipers, car bombs and booby traps. ISIS also forbids civilians to leave the area, prolonging the effort to flush the jihadists out.
SDF commander Gabar Derik said on Tuesday they are close to capturing the old neighborhoods of Raqqa from the militants, added almost 65 percent of Old City of Raqqa has been liberated.
“Clashes have been ongoing since yesterday, our forces are advancing,” Derik added. “According to our predictions, (the battle) may go on for 3 or 4 months until the city is fully liberated.”
Backed by the air strikes and coalition special forces, units of the SDF, an alliance dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), encircled ISIS militants in the southern districts of Raqqa last week and have been fighting since June to clear Islamic State from its de facto Syrian capital.
The U.S. coalition and its allies say they take care to avoid civilian casualties although the U.N. says coalition air strikes have killed at least 300 civilians in Raqqa since March.