ISIL lose control of Tabqa and its dam

Kurdish-led Syrian force backed by the USA expects to advance on the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria this summer, a commander said Friday, following a decision by the Trump administration to supply the force with heavier weapons.

On Friday, an AFP team entered Tabqa and the adjacent dam - Syria s largest - and saw rows of sandbags, mangled cars and craters from heavy bombardment dotting the structure.

The SDF's fight for Raqa - dubbed Operation Wrath of the Euphrates - has already seen the alliance capture large swathes of the surrounding province with help from the US-led coalition bombing IS in Iraq and Syria.

They are backed by coalition air strikes, American special forces advisers and even a US Marines artillery battery.

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The SDF has been working to tighten the noose around Raqqa before a final assault. He said the battle for Raqqa would begin once the group receives the weapons from the USA military, adding that he expects the fighters to storm the city in the coming weeks.

SDF deputy head Qahraman Hassan said: "In the beginning of the summer, we will storm and liberate (Raqa) city".

A U.S. defence official said earlier this week that the equipment would include small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armoured vehicles and bulldozers.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to convince Mr Trump to reverse his administration's decision to arm the YPG when the two leaders meet at the White House next week. "I want to consider all the information we have received so far (on USA arming Syrian Kurds) as hearsay..."

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Among its fighters is British woman Kimmie Taylor, who told The Independent she was bracing for a "bloodbath" in Raqqa while preparing for the offensive earlier this year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed hope on Friday that his upcoming visit to Washington will constitute a new "milestone" for the troubled relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Turkey has been angered by a USA decision to provide arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters that Turkey considers terrorists and a serious threat to its security.

Turkey has shelled YPG positions inside Syria but has also backed rebel groups against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and against IS jihadists. Sandbag fortifications left behind by Islamic State fighters lined the roadside in Tabqa city.Some 25,000 people had been displaced from Tabqa during fighting in recent weeks, staying in informal settlements south of the city, a United Nations refugee agency official in Syria, Roupen Alexandrian, said.

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The evacuees, both opposition fighters and civilians, left the districts of Barzeh and Tishrin.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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