SDF Announces Fresh Offensive to Secure Isis-Held Areas near Euphrates River
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) announced on Saturday (September 9) a fresh offensive to oust Islamic State (ISIS) militants from north and east of the Euphrates River, close to the Iraqi border.
During a press conference held in the village of Abu Fas in Hasaka province, head of the SDF’s Deir al-Zor military council Ahmed Abu Kholeh said the attack has been launched part of a wider offensive to drive ISIS out of Raqqa city and territory to its southeast.
“The first step is to free the eastern bank of the Euphrates and the areas Islamic State still holds,” Kholeh told Reuters. “We’re not specifying a timeframe but we hope it will be a quick operation.”
Syrian government forces on Tuesday (September 5) reached troops besieged for years by Islamic State (ISIS) in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor.
The army and its allies had made rapid advances in recent days and pushed through ISIS lines with the help of heavy artillery and Russian air strikes.
Islamic State still controls much of Deir al-Zor province, including half the city.
The SDF, an alliance dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes and Special Forces, have been fighting since June to clear ISIS from Raqqa city.
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 from leaving the area, prolonging the effort to flush the jihadists out.