SDF encircle Raqqa, cut off ISIS escape


Cihan Shekh Ehmed, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said that the militia's fighters were able to seize the western district of al-Qadisiya from ISIS on Monday.

Omar Abou Layla, the head of Deir Ezzor 24, said 15 bodies, including those of women and children, were recovered in the village.

Ali Shervan, a Kurdish SDF fighter, told Kurdistan24: "The city centre is completely besieged, and our forces are fighting from all sides".

The U.S. accused Syrian forces of launching a chemical attack from the base in April that killed dozens of civilians.

Bolstered by USA air support, the SDF - an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters - have made significant gains over the past several days and now "control all high speed avenues of approach into Raqqa", Dillon said. It will require rigorous communication through the several channels that the United States and Russian Federation have established to avoid getting tangled in Syria's civil war.

The U.N. human rights chief is urging world powers fighting the Islamic State group in Raqqa to review their operations after his office tallied at least 173 civilian deaths by air and ground strikes in the Syrian city this month.

USA officials in Baghdad contend there are no signs that YPG fighters within the SDF will abandon the Raqqa campaign to re-enforce areas under siege by Turkish and Turkish partner forces. The two-hour meeting took place in Ayn Issa, a town about 30 miles north of Raqqa city, where the council is based.

Raqqa is the capital of the extremist group's self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate, which it declared in 2014 in parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq. In mid-June the United States shot down a Syrian warplane after it was accused of attacking the SDF. Someone off camera said the bullet nearly killed her. "The pressure is going down [since the warplane was shot down] and is de-escalated in the battle space and we are able to focus on our number one mission".

The assault is aimed at driving ISIS out of the Syrian city. Years of air strikes and heavy weapons fire have largely reduced the neighborhoods to rubble, according to new footage from the government's military media.

The U.S. -backed Syrian Democratic Forces have fully encircled Raqqa, which serves as the de-facto capital of the Islamic State group in Syria, cutting off the jihadist group's last route out of the city, according to a monitoring group.

The Turkish military said on Wednesday it had fired artillery at YPG positions south of the town of Azaz in what it said was a response to the YPG's targeting of Turkey-backed rebels.

Erdogan has said Turkey would not flinch from taking tougher action against the YPG in Syria if Turkey believed it needed to.