Operation to capture Tabqah dam stopped to prevent damage, says SDF spox

Engineers at the Tabqah dam investigate claims the dam had been damaged due to clashes, 28 March 2017.

Wrath of Euphrates Operation Spokeswoman, Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, has said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are within two villages of encircling the Islamic State (IS) held Tabqah city.

The spokeswoman spoke to Kurdish Hawar News Agency and said the operation’s objective was to liberate the city, its airport and dam.

“The operation began on 21 March. Our forces crossed via air and water to the south of the Euphrates river. They have progressed 33km in the south and have almost encircled Tabqah. There are only two villages left.

“Regarding the dam, our forces are there. But we have stopped the operation to prevent any damage to the dam. However our operation is continuing as planned,” she said.

IS sources on Monday claimed that the dam had been damaged by airstrikes, forcing the SDF to cease fire to allow a group of engineers into the dam. Ahmed had confirmed that the dam had not been harmed on Tuesday.

Ahmed also said the Kurdish-Arab SDF had taken control of the Raqqa-Tabqah road and blocked logistic support and arms to the jihadist group.

Commenting on the civilian situation, the spokeswoman said civilians in areas surrounding Tabqah hadn’t abandoned their homes and had welcomed SDF forces.

“The people are concerned due to clashes but we are making sure their lives are not disrupted. However our forces have overcome all dangers and are gaining important victories. All phases of the operation have been successful so far.”

According to reports hundreds of civilians have also fled IS held areas in Tabqah to SDF controlled villages.

Tabqah is 55km west of IS stronghold Raqqa and it is thought that the US-backed SDF will capture the city and dam before launching the final offensive on Raqqa’s central neighbourhoods.