Tabnak – After losing Mosul, their last stronghold in Iran, ISIS terrorists are now facing hard times in Raqqa as various domestic and international forces are continuing their operations to liberate the city. However, there exist some concerns over the civilian casualties in the US-led air operations.
Associated Press reported on Thursday that US-backed Syrian armed groups have captured almost half of Raqqa from the ISIS, but the push into the northern city has slowed due to large amounts of explosives planted by the terrorists and their counteroffensives.
Nisreen Abdullah, a spokeswoman for the fighters, told The Associated Press that the pace of the advance into Raqqa has slowed because of massive amounts of explosives laid by ISIS fighters. As the terrorists become more surrounded, they have increased their suicide attacks against fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), she added.
"Raqqa has become a booby trapped city and this shows their (ISIS) weakness," Abdullah, of the Women's Protection Units, said speaking from northern Syria. "They are also using civilians as human shields and this is slowing the push as well."
Meanwhile, according to an AFP report, a barrage of US-led coalition air strikes killed 29 civilians on Wednesday in Raqqa, a monitor said. "At least eight children are among the dead,” said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
In the same vein, writing on Twitter on Tuesday night, a local activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said the attacks wounded another 50 civilians, adding that the US-led international coalition had carried out at least 41 air attacks in the 48 hours prior.
The activist group said that air attacks and shelling continued overnight in and around Raqqa. At the same time, the US-led coalition has said that 3,000 to 4,000 ISIS fighters are thought to be holed up in Raqqa, where they have erected defenses against the anticipated assault.
US-led forces’ advances aside, Reuters reported on July 23 that Syrian government forces and their allies recaptured territory from ISIS in countryside southeast of Raqqa after air strikes in the area. The army seized an oil field in the Sabkha area as part of the advance.
It was a rare advance for Damascus's forces in that area, which is close to territory controlled by SDF. It also brings government forces closer to Deir al-Zor province, another ISIS stronghold. The Syrian army has active front lines with ISIS in western Raqqa province and has made recent gains there.
However, the observers believe that the eventual fall of Raqqa will bring anti-ISIS forces closer to ending the terrorists’ control over cities and towns in Iraq and Syria, but it will not end the group’s ability to launch terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere and spread propaganda over the Internet.