DAMASCUS, SYRIA (3:15 P.M.) – After a 48-hour hiatus to stock up on supplies and bring in more reinforcements, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) scored new gains inside ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital on Saturday morning.
Advancing on the southeastern flank of Raqqa city, the Kurdish-led SDF were able to impose full control over the Rafiqah neighborhood in the Old City residential area.
On the southwestern axis, the Manbij Military Council (SDF affiliate) seized weapons, mines and ammunition after securing a small advance in the Tayar district. With the SDF pressing from both sides, only two kilometers of ISIS-held territory is to be captured before the pincers meet up.
A couple days ago, a US delegation arrived in the Kurdish-held town of Ain Issa to meet with leaders of the newly formed Raqqa Civil Council to discuss reconstruction, demining and aid for refugees fleeing the fighting.
The Raqqa Civil Council is intended to rule over Raqqa city once ISIS is expelled. Leading the operation to liberate Raqqa is almost exclusively Kurdish contingents, causing some tensions due to the city itself being mostly Arabic. The council looks to resolve these sectarian tensions.
Although the provincial capital of Raqqa was home to a large pre-war Kurdish minority, most were forced to flee after ISIS took control of the city in early 2014.