Backed Forces Capture Territory On Edge Of Raqqa Amid Heavy Clashes

Syria’s Kurds are now receiving direct US military support and hold large swathes of the Kurdish-majority parts of the country they call ‘Rojava

The SDF are expected to move from Meshleb into neighbouring al-Senaa, with the area in between being targeted by the US-coalition overnight, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Many are caught in the crossfire", UNICEF official Geert Cappelaere said, urging all parties to give safe passage to those who want to leave.

Surovikin also added that “it looks like Americans use IS in order to forestall the advances of Syrian government forces under the excuse of fighting worldwide terrorism.”.

US-backed Syrian forces launched their attack on Raqqa earlier this week and US-led coalition airstrikes have intensified.

An worldwide coalition pounded Raqa with air strikes Thursday, with a monitor saying at least 17 civilians had been killed in the bombardment as US-backed fighters pushed further into the Islamic State group s Syrian bastion.

"IS has snipers monitoring Al-Meshleb neighbourhood and has laid mines extensively throughout it", the monitor said.

SDF fighters were armed mostly with light weapons including Kalashnikovs, and were also returning mortar fire on IS positions.

They have also reportedly dug defencive trenches and tunnels to try to slow the SDF advance.




The SDF has scored a series of victories since launching its operation to take Raqa in November, including capturing the strategic town of Tabqa and its adjacent dam in May. The SDF has been closing in for months with the help of air strikes and special forces from the US -led coalition.

An estimated 300,000 civilians were believed to have been living under Daesh rule in Raqa, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria.

Several hundred thousand civilians still live in the city.

Elsewhere in Syria, a USA warplane shot down a pro-regime drone on Thursday night near the Jordanian border in the latest incident in escalating tensions in the country's south.

"It was armed and still had weapons on it when it was sacked upon by United States forces from an aircraft", Dillon said.

The shooting down came after another incident earlier Thursday in which coalition forces struck "technical vehicles" advancing towards Al-Tanaf.

"As long as pro-regime forces are oriented toward Coalition and partnered forces the potential for conflict is escalated", CENTCOM said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Thursday's attack, which marks the first time that forces supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have attacked coalition troops in that region, came just hours after the USA bombed two pro-Syrian government pickup trucks carrying weapons that had moved against US -backed fighters near the town of Tanf.

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