Syrian Democratic Forces expect Raqqa assault soon, await weapons

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officials hold a press conference in the town of Tabqa, after capturing it from Islamic State militants this week, Syria May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Friday their attack to capture Raqqa city from Islamic State would begin soon and the US-led coalition would supply them with weapons including armoured vehicles for the assault.

The SDF, an alliance of militias including Arab groups and the Kurdish YPG militia, has been waging a campaign to isolate and ultimately capture Raqqa city since November, with backing from the US-led coalition.

While the US-led coalition has already supplied weapons to Arab fighters in the SDF, the White House this week authorised for the first time arming its most powerful element – the Kurdish YPG – to help in the Raqqa assault, infuriating Turkey.

SDF commander Abdul Qader Hevdeli declined to say when exactly the assault on Raqqa would begin, but said it would be soon during a news conference in the town of Tabqa, which the SDF captured this week from IS after weeks of fighting.

“I can’t specify exactly, I believe entering and storming the city will happen at the start of the summer,” he said.

“At the start of entering (Raqqa), of course, as (the US-led coalition) promised us, there will be support in the form of specialised weapons, armoured vehicles or others,” he said.

He said that weapons the White House has approved for the YPG had yet to arrive. “I believe these weapons or this support will arrive soon,” he said.

The capture of Tabqa and its nearby dam on the Euphrates river marked a major milestone in the SDF campaign against IS. The SDF said in a statement Tabqa would be turned over to a civilian council once fully secured.

It also said the authority that oversees the hydroelectric Tabqa dam would remain “a national Syrian institution that will serve all the regions of Syria without exception”.

– Reuters