Fighting puts Syria IS-held dam at 'risk of collapse'

Cheryl Sanders
April 10, 2017

US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces were in control of a spillway north of the dam "which can be used to alleviate pressure on the dam if need be", the coalition said.

It was the first such US assistance to the Arab and Kurdish fighters comprising the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Bolstered by air strikes and military advisers from the US-led coalition, SDF units are approaching Tabqa from the south via the airport and via the north near the IS-held dam.

Online, experts say the upcoming battle for Raqqa is not yet a topic of discussion for the group's fighters or its supporters on forums or encrypted chat channels, with hardly any mention of the battle that awaits, despite the encroachment of the Kurdish and Arab fighters. Raqqa is the extremist group's operational command headquarters.

Earlier this month, US Marines equipped with artillery arrived in northern Syria to accelerate the capabilities of the US-backed Arab and Kurdish forces there. Some 300,000 people live in the city, located on the banks of the River Euphrates, 160 kilometers (100 miles) to the east of Aleppo.

The militants are clinging to their final strongholds after having seized large portions of northern Iraq and Syria in an offensive in 2014.

The battle to recapture the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria will begin in "days", France's defense minister said on Friday. In a joint operation, several villages were reported to had been freed from the terrorists.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a US-led global coalition - said it had seized the air base on Sunday.

The alliance was also focused on a strategically important town of Tabqa near Raqqa, with a dam and an airport nearby, AFP reported.

The jihadists are under attack from several directions in northern Syria, with Russian Federation supporting its Syrian ally President Bashar al-Assad on one front and Turkey providing air cover for rebel groups battling the jihadists on another.

The Syrian army did not join in the attack on Tabqa, he added.

Operations are now focused on the strategically important town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, and the adjacent dam and military airport.

If there were lingering questions whether US ground troops would play a frontline role in the assault to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria, they can be laid to rest now.

Al-Ja'afari said any military presence in Syria without government approval was "illegitimate".

A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter walks with his weapon in northern Raqqa province.

SDF fighters reached one of the entrances of the dam on Friday, battling IS in clashes in which fighters had been killed and wounded.

In Geneva, the top deputy for the U.N. Syria envoy shuttled between hotels to meet with representatives from the government and opposition groups ahead of the formal start of a fifth round of U.N. -mediated peace talks.

"Those who are truly fighting Daesh [Isis] are the Syrian Army with the help of our allies from Russian Federation and Iran", he insisted.

The charity group Save the Children said the Hama fighting has displaced 10,000 people.

Other reports by iNewsToday