Backed forces breach wall in Syria's Raqqa

US-backed fighters enter IS held Raqa from south for 1st time

Air strikes by the US-led coalition battling IS punched two holes in the medieval wall surrounding Raqa s Old City, allowing fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces to breach the jihadists defences, Washington and the SDF said on Tuesday.

"SDF fighters would have been channeled through these locations and were extremely vulnerable as they were targeted with vehicle-borne IEDs ... as they tried to breach the Old City". On Sunday, the US -backed fighters crossed the Euphrates River on the southern edge of the city, completing its encirclement.

Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, tweeted that the advance was a "key milestone in campaign to liberate the city". It is approximately 3 km away from the city centre.

"The portions targeted were 25-meter sections and will help preserve the remainder of the overall 2,500-meter wall", it added.

The ancient Syrian city of Palmyra has been devastated by the Islamic State group since fighters first seized it in 2015 and destroyed ancient monuments.

Daesh overran Raqqa in 2014, transforming it into the de facto Syrian capital of its self-declared "caliphate", which it declared three years ago.




The city was the scene of some of the group's worst atrocities, including public beheadings.

The campaign to retake the Syrian city comes as coalition fighters are also seeking to uproot the last ISIS fighters in Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what it says are ISIS targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a United Nations mandate.

The Kurdish-led SDF besieged the ISIS capital Raqqa at the end of last week, just as Iraqi forces captured the ruins of the symbolic al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, the place where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi first declared the ISIS "caliphate" almost three years ago. ISIS controlled the city uncontested for almost two years and has put up a brutal defense since USA backed operations began in October 2016.

On Monday, as his men closed in on the last remaining areas controled by the terrorists, two female suicide bombers, hiding among a group of fleeing civilians, attacked Iraqi troops.

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