The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have launched the 4th phase of the Wrath of Euphrates Operation to capture Islamic State (IS) stronghold Raqqa.
In a statement on Thursday the majority Kurdish-Arab force said the latest phase was to take control of the whole of northern Raqqa and the Jalab valley.
“We are calling on our people to assist SDF and to stay clear of Daesh (IS) positions to prevent being used as human shields. We promise to secure civilian lives.”
The multi-ethnic group, formed of at least two dozen military factions, has been engaged in fierce clashes with IS in nearby Tabqah (55km west of Raqqa).
The SDF have taken control of the Tabqah airbase but met with strong resistance as they move into the centre of Tabqah and at the city’s dam, where the operation has stopped to prevent damage to the important structure.
The operation to storm Raqqa, where more than a thousand Yazidi women and children kidnapped from Iraq are being held, was expected to be launched at the beginning of April but has been postponed due to the complications in Tabqah.