US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces edge closer to heart of Raqqa

A female SDF fighter is welcomed by a local, after her village was captured from IS in Raqqa.

Fighters of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are edging closer to the Islamic State’s self-declared capital Raqqa in northern Syria, according to reports in local media.

Two more villages were captured from the jihadist group on Thursday in the northeast of Raqqa 5 km away from the city centre, Hawar news agency reported.

At least 15 IS members were killed in fierce clashes lasting all day in the villages of Hemrat and Medar.

According to sources within the multi-ethnic SDF, the past week has seen them edge closer to Raqqa city centre with their forces only 3 km away in the northeast, 8 km in north and 18 km in the west.

According to the report jihadist militants have begun fortifying their defences in the city with placing mines, digging emplacements and tunnels.

The fighting has led to mass internal migration with civilians fleeing the jihadist group to SDF controlled areas. Officials in the region have made repeatedly made calls for international aid.

The Operation Wrath of Euphrates was launched by the SDF in November 2016 and is currently in its 4th phase with the next phase expected to be the storming of the city.