by WorldTribune Staff, May 24, 2016
A force of 50,000 Kurdish and Arab fighters have launched a major offensive aimed at driving Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) from its de facto “capital” of Raqqa, Syria.
An alliance led and dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) along with fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have begun a “three-pronged offensive” on Raqqa, according to the Kurdish Rudaw news agency.
“Today our forces headed to Raqqa,” a source within the SDF told the news agency on May 24, adding that U.S. air support would be involved in the operation.
The source said the alliance would start the offensive by cutting off supply routes and then “pinning” in the ISIL jihadists for a final battle.
“Our forces will be advancing to the villages of Fatse Big, Fatse Small and Tishi, in order to clear them of ISIL militants first,” the source said, adding the alliance was confident that local populations would rally around the anti-ISIL forces.
The U.S.-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes in and around Raqqa, but the Pentagon has played down talks of plans to coordinate a ground operation to seize the city from ISIL.
Observers say ISIL will fight to the death for the capital of its self-proclaimed “caliphate” and has had many months to prepare booby traps, mines and defensive fortifications.
The advance on Raqqa comes just one day after Iraqi forces began an offensive aimed at liberating Fallujah from ISIL’s grip.