PHOTO: A Syrian Democratic Forces unit moving to the frontline near Raqqa in northern Syria on Sunday


The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have declared an offensive to capture the Islamic State’s main position in Syria, the city of Raqqa.

Taking advantage of the Iraqi-Kurdish attack on ISIS in Mosul in neighboring Iraq, the SDF — led by the Kurdish militia YPG — issued an announcement on Sunday of the “Wrath of the Euphrates” offensive.

“The general command of the Syria Democratic Forces announces the blessed start of its major military campaign to liberate the city of Raqqa,” Jehan Sheikh Amad, an SDF spokeswoman, told a news conference in Ain Issa, 50 km (31 miles) north of Raqqa.

Video claimed to show SDF men and equipment mobilizing, with commanders claiming advances of about 10 km (6 miles).

Trying to ease concerns about a Kurdish-led assault on a mainly-Arab city, the commanders proclaimed, “Raqqa city will be liberated with the aid of its people be it Kurds, Arabs, or Turkmen.” They emphasized “the cooperation of the global coalition”.

Since the creation of the SDF in autumn 2015, the US has provided support with airstrikes, arms, and special forces in the campaign against the Islamic State. Despite Turkish warnings against any operations west of the Euphrates, the SDF crossed the river in December and took the main ISIS position in Aleppo Province, the city of Manbij, in June.

The SDF said on Thursday that it will not accept Turkish involvement in the offensive. Ankara in turn is suspicious of the SDF because it believes the YPG is part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.

US officials — including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford — are in Ankara discussing the situation with the Turkish leadership. A well-placed local analyst that it is likely that the YPG will only take territory around Raqqa, and that Arab groups — including units of the Free Syrian Army — will move into the city.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement:

I welcome today’s announcement by the SDF that the operation to free Raqqa from ISIL’s barbaric grip has begun. The effort to isolate, and ultimately liberate, Raqqa marks the next step in our coalition campaign plan. As in Mosul, the fight will not be easy and there is hard work ahead, but it is necessary to end the fiction of ISIL’s caliphate and disrupt the group’s ability to carry out terror attacks against the United States, our allies and our partners.

Dunford with Turkish officials on Sunday:


The Islamic State has controlled Raqqa since autumn 2013 when it pushed out Syrian rebels.


Credit: Al Monitor

Activists: 69 Killed As Russia-Regime Use Thermobaric Weapons and Chemicals

The pro-opposition Local Coordination Committees documented the deaths of 69 people across Syria on Sunday, amid reports of Russian-regime use of thermobaric weapons.

The LCC said 14 children and seven women were among the casualties.

Of the deaths, 27 were near Damascus, including the areas of Harasta, Douma, and Hamouria. The LCC said a napalm-like substance was used in the attacks on Douma.

In Idlib Province, 17 people died, most in the town of Dana. There were 13 fatalities in Aleppo as Daret Izza was hit by thermobaric weapons. Six people were killed in Homs Province, including from missiles on the besieged al-Wa’er district of Homs city.

The LCC also claimed that regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs with cholorine canister on Khan al-Asal, west of Aleppo city. More than 30 people were treated for suffocation.