Forces make small ad­vances in push to­ward Raqqa

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD -

BEIRUT >> Kur­dish-led Syr­ian fight­ers pushed ahead Mon­day with an of­fen­sive aimed at iso­lat­ing and en­cir­cling the Is­lamic State group’s strong­hold of Raqqa, mak­ing small ad­vances in vil­lages north of the ex­trem­ists’ de facto cap­i­tal.

War­planes from a U.S.-led coali­tion pro­vided air cover for the fight­ers from the Syria Demo­cratic Forces, an al­liance of Kur­dish and Arab fight­ers formed last year with the aim of in­cor­po­rat­ing non-Kur­dish el­e­ments into the mainly Kur­dish mili­tia fight­ing IS in Syria.

The SDF an­nounced the start of the cam­paign to lib­er­ate Raqqa at a news con­fer­ence Sun­day in north­ern Syria, and the United States, France and Bri­tain said they would pro­vide air sup­port for the of­fen­sive, dubbed “Eur­phrates Rage.”

But the bat­tle for the Syr­ian city, home to nearly 200,000 mostly Sunni Arabs and an es­ti­mated 5,000 IS mil­i­tants in­clud­ing many for­eign­ers, could be long and costly.

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