DAMASCUS, SYRIA (6:00 P.M.) – A massive urban battle for Raqqa city is expected to unfold this summer after the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have advanced rapidly on the Islamic State capital from three flanks in recent months.

On Tuesday, SDF contingents were able to wrestle control of the villages of Al-Khatuniyah, Ker Ali, Ballanah and Al-Furqan, the closest of which is located on the main highway less than 10 kilometers west of the provincial capital.

Footage of recent SDF advances in rural Raqqa:

With all ISIS land routes to Raqqa city cutoff due to the overwhelmingly succesful Euphrates Wrath offensive, the Islamic State is only able to bring in supplies and weapons by boat across the Euphrates River where all bridges have been destroyed by US airstrikes.

The battle for Raqqa itself, considered the heart of the regional caliphate, will likely begin within a few weeks. Some 4,000 ISIS militants are said to be defending the city while SDF fighters and coalition forces total approximately 40,000 troops.

Click here for the latest map updates on the Syrian battlefield.

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Student currently living in Denmark. Special focus on news from Syria, MENA map-making and strategical military analysis.

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