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US pound Raqqa as Kurdish-Arab force prepare final assault Open in fullscreen

Robert Cusack

US pound Raqqa as Kurdish-Arab force prepare final assault

Around 200,000 people have fled fighting near Raqqa since October 2016 [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 28 May, 2017

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Kurdish forces allied with the US-led coalition are reportedly nearing the gates of Raqqa as air strikes continue to rain down on the region's vital infrastructure, reportedly killing civilians.
The US-led coalition continued its policy of heavy air strikes against Islamic State group targets in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa on Saturday, as Syrian Kurdish forces prepared to attack the city's defences.

The Islamic State's group news agency Amaq reported that 15 people were killed and another 25 were injured in air raids on the militants' de-facto capital on Saturday.

"Near Raqqa, 15 strikes engaged eight [IS] tactical units; destroyed six fighting positions,
three [IS] headquarters, an [IS] staging area and a VBIED," the anti-IS Operation Inherent Resolve force said in a statement.

The multi-national coalition reported an additional 18 air-strikes on Friday near Raqqa.

US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces have been preparing to enter the city for months and reportedly reached within viewing distance of the city on Friday.

The SDF's advances to the east and west of Raqqa have caused around 20,000 people to flee their homes, the UN's humanitarian department (OCHA) reports. Almost 200,000 people have reportedly been tracked leaving the area since November 2016.

A total of 8,230 people were reported to have received food assistance between 15 and 22 May in the local Ein al-Issa refugee camp.

One civilian told local news reporters that food, water and electric supplies had all dried up under IS occupation in the days before their village was liberated by SDF fighters.

"Living under IS was like living in a big prison," said one business owner who was not named in the report.

"If I said even one word they didn't like I'd be straight in front of the Hisbah (IS' religious police)."

One Canadian volunteer with the SDF army told ARA news on Sunday that forces were intent on establishing a new and independent Rojava province in northern Syria once they had destroyed IS' presence.

US President Donald Trump drew Turkish anger at the beginning of the month when he told President Erdogan that the SDF would lead the assault on Raqqa.

Ankara sees Kurdish military strength on its southern border as a threat, due to its decades-long war against the Kurdish separatist group, Kurdistan Workers Party.

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