U.S.-backed Kurdish militias have cut the highway between the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Raqqa and its stronghold of Deir Ezzor province, blocking the last main road out of Raqqa on Monday, according to Kurdish military sources.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, is supported by the US as the latter uses them in its war against ISIS.
Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition and a long fight by the SDF forces ended in recapturing Manbij from the control of the Islamic State (ISIS) group last year.
The SDF, backed by US coalition, launched also a campaign with the ultimate aim of capturing Raqqa in November and succeeded in encircling the city. Recently, they launched an assault on Deir Ezzor province to cut the road to Raqqa and surrounding ISIS effectively.
Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of Kurdish PKK militants who have waged a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
Most of Deir Ezzor province is under the control of Islamic state group (ISIS).
ISIS took a large part of the city of Deir Ezzor in July 2014 and forced a crippling siege on the regime’s remaining areas since January 2015, and maintained a supply road to its stronghold in Raqqa to the north.
The SDF advance into the province is part of an operation to encircle and ultimately capture the group’s Syrian capital of Raqqa in the north of the country.
One aim of the campaign is to cut ISIS’s supply lines from Raqqa to Deir Ezzor province and widen the Kurdish militias’ influence in the area, making it harder for the Turkish forces to oust them or put pressure on their held-region.
If the latest news is confirmed, it would be a major advance for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its phased push to surround and ultimately capture Raqqa
Cutting the road to Raqqa
The SDF said its forces have cut the highway between Raqqa and Deir Az Zor province.
“Cutting the road between Raqqa and Deir Az Zor means that practically the encirclement of ISIS capital is complete by land,” the Kurdish military sources told Reuters.
“It is a big victory but there is still a lot to accomplish,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The development, confirmed by the Observatory, marks a major blow against the Islamic State group that is under intense military pressure in both Syria and Iraq.
It is losing ground to three separate campaigns in northern Syria by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militias, the Russian-backed Syrian army, and Turkey and allied Syrian rebels.
Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition have destroyed the bridges across the Euphrates to Raqqa city, the Observatory said.
The Observatory added families brought recently by Islamic State to Raqqa from areas to the west had been forced to cross the river by boat, reflecting the problem facing IS in reaching the city.
In Iraq, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces captured the second of Mosul’s five bridges on Monday, part of a major onslaught that began in October to take back the city lost to Islamic State in 2014.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.