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Battle of Raqqa (2017)

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Battle of Raqqa (2017)
Part of the Raqqa campaign (2016–present), the Syrian Civil War, the American-led intervention in Syria, and the Syrian Kurdish–Islamist conflict (2013–present)
Battle of Raqqa2.svg
Map of the situation in Raqqa city, as of 25 June 2017      SDF control     ISIL control
Date 6 June 2017 – ongoing
(3 weeks and 1 day)
Location Raqqa, Raqqa Governorate, Syria
Status

Ongoing

  • The SDF captures six neighborhoods and a military base[8]
  • The SDF completely encircles Raqqa city on 24 June
Belligerents

Syrian Democratic Forces
Self Defence Forces (HXP)[1]
Leftist volunteers[a]
CJTF–OIR

 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Commanders and leaders
Rojda Felat[9]
(SDF general command member and YPJ commander)
Clara Raqqa[10][11]
(high-ranking YPJ commander)
Col. Talal Silo[1][12]
(SDF general command spokesperson)
Muhammad Mustafa "Abu Adel"[13]
(Northern Sun Battalion commander)
Abu Raad Bakary[14]
(Tribal Forces commander)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Khattab al-Tunisi [15]
(ISIL high command member and commander of eastern Raqqa)
Units involved

Syrian Democratic Forces[1][16]

United States United States Armed Forces

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Military of ISIL

Strength
Unknown 3,000–4,000[19]
Casualties and losses
15–103 killed[20][21] 142–400 killed[22][23]
117 civilians killed[22]
Thousands of civilians displaced[24]

The Battle of Raqqa is the fifth and final phase of the Raqqa campaign launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) de facto capital in the city of Raqqa. The battle began on 6 June 2017, and is being supported by airstrikes and ground troops from the US-led coalition.[12] The operation was named the "Great War" by the SDF.[1] The battle is running concurrently with the Battle of Mosul as part of an effort by the CJTF–OIR and its allies to strip ISIL of its regional centers of power, and to dismantle it as an organization controlling territory.[25]

Background[edit]

In 2015, ISIL began to fortify the city and its surroundings with bunkers and a network of tunnels.[26]

By June 2017, Raqqa remained the only major Syrian city fully under ISIL control and was, therefore, its effective center of operations. With a large number of foreign fighters, Raqqa has been a planning center for terrorist attacks against European cities.[27] The Raqqa campaign was launched by the SDF on 6 November 2016 in an effort to capture the city, and it has resulted in the SDF capturing a large amount of territory in the Raqqa Governorate from ISIL, including the city of al-Thawrah, and the infrastructure at Tabqa Dam, and Baath Dam.

As many as 500 US special forces are operating on the ground in northern Syria in support of the Raqqa campaign. The US and other coalition members are supplying heavy weapons, intelligence collection, communications support and other assistance to the SDF as part of their intervention in the conflict.[27] The battle began in the wake of a tumultuous period for the coalition, as internal pressures had been elevated by the Qatar diplomatic crisis, which had seen diplomatic relations between Qatar and other coalition members severed, and was publicly supported by President Donald Trump.[28][29]

Local residents stated that many ISIL militants had abandoned the city and traveled to Deir ez-Zor, in anticipation of the impending attack on their capital. It is speculated that the group will assault the city, currently held by the Syrian Government forces, in an effort to make a last stand.[28]

It was reported by AFP that in an US-led airstrike, 21 civilians were killed while attempting to flee Raqqa by dinghy on the Euphrates River. The event was also reported by Al Jazeera, but with uncertainty as to who carried out the bombing.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][excessive citations]

The battle[edit]

An SDF MRAP and pickup truck in Raqqa

The United States Air Force conducted heavy airstrikes on Raqqa the day before the battle.[38] The battle was officially launched by the SDF in the dawn of 6 June 2017. The offensive came from Raqqa's north, east, and west. Supported by US airstrikes, the SDF attacked the former base of the 17th Division north of Raqqa and the Mashlab district in the southeastern part of the city.[12] By the end of the day, the SDF captured more than half of Mashlab district and also attacked the Andalus district in the northwest.[9] The SDF also captured the village of al-Jazra.[39]

On 7 June, the SDF captured a ruined fortress on the edge of the city, and a U.S. coalition official said the attack was set to accelerate.[40] On the same day, the SDF captured Tell Harqal districts of the city.[41]

Brett H. McGurk, the special envoy with responsibility over the US-led military coalition, claimed that the fighting in the city would be accelerated by the failures of ISIL in the Battle of Mosul, and claimed that the forces were prepared for a "difficult and very long-term battle".[42]

The SDF entered the 17th Division base and the nearby sugar plant on 8 June,[43] but were eventually forced to retreat, due to casualties as a result of persistent ISIL resistance.[44]

The following night, Coalition airplanes heavily struck the city, killing 23 civilians. At the same time the SDF, backed by special forces, were close to capturing the entire al-Mashlab neighborhood.[45] Later that day, the SDF entered Sabahiyah neighborhood from the western axis[46] and captured the remaining parts of the al-Mashlab neighborhood within hours.[47][48][49]

On 10 June, SDF forces entered the Roman suburb and were locked "in fierce fighting", while they were reinforcing the western half of Al-Sabahiya.[49] The International Coalition itself stated that they had destroyed numerous targets in Raqqa between 7-9 June; a minefield, 11 fighting positions, four vehicles, three ISIL headquarters, two VBIED's and an ISIL-held building.[50] At the end of the day, SDF forces managed to take control over Harqaliya Suburb.[51] During the battle, US forces reportedly used white phosphorus munitions several times while thousands of civilians remained in Raqqa. A spokesman for the U.S. military did not confirm or deny the allegation.[52]

SDF fighters walk through a destroyed area in the suburbs of Raqqa.

By 11 June, 79 civilians reportedly had been killed.[53] The SDF forces captured "wide parts" of the Roman suburb and advanced into al-Sinaa neighborhood and al-Hal Market near the northern banks of the Euphrates River.[54] ISIL fighters attacked the sugar plant that the SDF had captured three days earlier in the northern part of the city.[55]

On 12 June, SDF forces began the process of capturing al-Sinaa and al-Hattin neighborhoods ,along with the al-Sinaa industrial zone.[56][56] SDF forces captured Sahil village southwest of Raqqa after clashes between the SDF and ISIL broke out and lasted until the next morning.[57]

On 14 June, SDF forces entered the al-Berid neighborhood in the western part of Raqqa, following intense fighting in which an ISIL suicide bomber was killed.[58]

On 15 June, SDF forces captured the al-Sinaa neighborhood and entered the Batani neighborhood.[59] Several CJTF-OIR troops were injured by a VBIED planted by ISIL in al-Sinaa neighborhood.[60]

On 18 June, SDF forces captured Kasrat Sheyh Juma village, to the south of Raqqa, following violent clashes with ISIL.[61] The Kurdish-led forces also captured a greenhouse in the south of the city[62] as well as Batani neighborhood in the east.[63][64]

On 19 June, ISIL counter-attacked at the old city walls, and managed to encircle a group of SDF fighters, among them members of the Elite Forces (SEF).[65] The Elite Forces then attempted to break the encirclement of their comrades, shooting down a ISIL bombing drone,[66] breaking through to their fifteen besieged fighters at the Bab Baghdad gate of the old city. In the course of this operation, the SEF lost its first member in the battle for Raqqah city and its fourth in the “Euphrates Wrath” Operation.[67] On the next day, the SDF, supported by especially heavy airstrikes, continued to advance in northwestern Raqqa amid "desperate" attempts of ISIL to stop their progress.[68] An ISIL counter-attack on the Batani district was repelled.[69] On 23 June, the SDF began an assault on the Qadisiya district, which led to fierce fighting in the area.[70] On the next day, the SDF completely encircled and besieged Raqqa city, trapping about 4,000 ISIL militants inside.[71]

The United States Marine Corps provide fire support to the SDF during the battle.

By 25 June, the SDF had captured the western Qadisiya district, whereupon ISIL launched a major counter-attack, leading to extremely heavy fighting.[72] On the following day, however, the SDF finally captured all of Qadisiya, making it the sixth district in the city under SDF control.[70][73] In response, ISIL launched multiple counter-attacks in the city[74] and on the Euphrates' southern bank, though these failed. By the end of the day, the SDF had also taken control of al-Farkha village to Raqqa's southwest.[75] CJTF–OIR spokesman Ryan Dillon noted that the resistance of ISIL increased as the SDF further advanced into the city.[76]

On 27 June, the SDF launched an attack against the old city which was repelled by ISIL, though succeeded in capturing the village of al-Ghota south of Raqqa.[77][78]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Most leftist foreign volunteers fight as part of the YPG,[2] though some have also formed an independent unit, the Antifascist International Tabur,[3] or joined the International Freedom Battalion. The latter is a larger unit, mostly composed of Kurdish and Turkish communists.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Great War for the liberation of Raqqa begins". Hawar News Agency. 6 June 2017. 
  2. ^ Harp (2017), pp. 43–49.
  3. ^ Harp (2017), p. 49.
  4. ^ Sinan Deniz (13 November 2016). "‘Raqqa’s fall will bring the end of Erdoğan’". ANF News. Retrieved 26 January 2017. 
  5. ^ Sirwan Kajjo (21 December 2016). "Kurdish-Arab Forces in Syria Make Gains in Raqqa Province". Voice of America. 
  6. ^ Steven Swinford (25 December 2016). "Operation Raqqa: British RAF pilots to switch bombing raids to 'the heart' of Isil". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2017. 
  7. ^ Volkmar Kabisch; Reiko Pinkert (29 March 2017). "Zivile Opfer in Syrien. Bundeswehr in verheerenden Luftschlag involviert". Tagesschau (Germany) (in German). Retrieved 29 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "Battle for ISIS' capital heats up as Kurdish troops secure huge gains in Raqqa". 13 June 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  9. ^ a b "US-backed fighters move into ISIS stronghold Raqqa for the first time". Agence France-Presse. 6 June 2017. 
  10. ^ "The commander Clara: 4 stages achieved their aims". Hawar News Agency. 7 June 2017. 
  11. ^ Mahmoud Bali (12 June 1017). "Female Commander Leads Anti-IS Fighters in Hometown Raqqa". Voice of America. 
  12. ^ a b c "U.S.-backed Syrian force starts battle to capture Raqqa from Islamic State". Reuters. 6 June 2017. 
  13. ^ Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim; Maria Nelson (6 June 2017). "Syrian Democratic Forces break through Raqqa city limits for first time, capture neighborhoods". Syria Direct. Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  14. ^ "Tribal forces: Our goal is liberation tenderness and all Syrian territory from terrorism". Hawar News Agency. 19 June 2017. 
  15. ^ Dilber Issa (12 June 2017). "Top ISIS military official killed by SDF fire in Raqqa city". ARA News. Retrieved 16 June 2017. 
  16. ^ "SDF announces the launch of 'Great Battle' for Raqqa". Firat News Agency. 6 June 2017. 
  17. ^ Mamosta, Afarin (8 June 2017). "YPG Special Forces (YAT) preparing for major operation inside #Raqqa city. Morale high.pic.twitter.com/VDBFywO4Fu". 
  18. ^ "Dissident assured on IS’ collapse, mass fleeing situations". Hawar News Agency. 17 June 1017. 
  19. ^ Patrick Cockburn (6 June 2017). "Battle to liberate Raqqa from Isis 'will be over quicker than Mosul'". The Independent. 
  20. ^ "Latin American Herald Tribune - SDF Announce 312 IS Fighters Killed in 10-Day Offensive in Syria's al-Raqqa". www.laht.com. 
  21. ^ "Battle of Raqqa City". SyrianCivilWarMap. Retrieved 12 June 2017. 
  22. ^ a b Feeds, IANS (18 June 2017). "117 killed in US-backed Syrian offensive". 
  23. ^ Sitrep Raqqa: The Geopolitics of Eastern Syria
  24. ^ "Hundreds flee battles in Raqqa". Al Monitor. 
  25. ^ "Raqqa: Syrian Kurdish-led forces launch offensive on IS 'capital'". 6 June 2017 – via www.bbc.com. 
  26. ^ "IS begins to fortify Raqqa ahead of international strikes on Syria". www.news.com.au. Retrieved 2017-06-19. 
  27. ^ a b CNN, Tim Lister. "Battle for Raqqa: 7 things you need to know". CNN. Retrieved 2017-06-11. 
  28. ^ a b Barnard, Anne (6 June 2017). "U.S.-Backed Forces Begin Assault on Raqqa, ISIS Stronghold in Syria" – via NYTimes.com. 
  29. ^ Landler, Mark (6 June 2017). "Trump Takes Credit for Saudi Move Against Qatar, a U.S. Military Partner" – via NYTimes.com. 
  30. ^ "Beirut (AFP) - 06/05/2017 - 22:50" (Top site flash "US-led strike kills 21 civilians fleeing Syria's Raqa"), afp.com, 5 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017. Archived on the Internet Archive.
  31. ^ "Syrie : 21 civils fuyant Raqa tués dans une frappe de la coalition"[dead link] (in French), afp.com, 5 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  32. ^ "Ekonyheter Tis 06 jun kl 00:00" (at 40 sek) (in Swedish), Sveriges Radio, 6 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  33. ^ Jack Moore. "U.S.-Led Coalition Airstrike Kills 21 Civilians as Forces Breach ISIS Capital Raqqa, Monitors Say", newsweek.com, 6 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  34. ^ "Syria: U.S.-Backed Forces Begin Battle to Retake Raqqa from ISIS", democracynow.org, 6 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  35. ^ "US-backed force enters IS-held Raqa", breitbart.com, 6 June 2017. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
  36. ^ "SDF launch major offensive to capture ISIL-held Raqqa", aljazeera.com, June 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  37. ^ Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå. "USA-ledd flygräd krävde 20 civila liv" (in Swedish), Svenska Dagbladet, 5 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017. (N.b. the headline reads "20 civilians" while the article reads "at least 21 civilians".)
  38. ^ "The Latest: US-backed Syrian force attacks IS-held Raqqa". The Associated Press
  39. ^ "Explosives found in al-Jazra liberated village". ANHA. 
  40. ^ Barrington, Lisa. "U.S.-backed forces seize Raqqa ruins; U.N. sees 'dire' situation". 
  41. ^ Hozan Mamo (8 June 2017). "SDF captures first neighbourhood in Raqqa city after launch of major anti-ISIS operation". ARA News. 
  42. ^ "Raqqa fight 'will accelerate as IS loses grip on Mosul' – Independent.ie". 
  43. ^ News, ANF. "SDF takes control of the 17th Division Base north of Raqqa". ANF News. 
  44. ^ "Repeated attempts by the “Euphrates Wrath” Operation Forces and the American forces to control the Division 17 and the sugar factory and preparations for an offensive on the second neighbourhood in Al-Raqqah city and advancement at its western outskirts". SOHR. 
  45. ^ "International Coalition’s warplanes kill an activist of the Syrian Observatory and 22 civilians in Al-Raqqah and the “Euphrates Wrath” Operation Forces control the first neighbourhood almost completely". SOHR. 
  46. ^ "SDF fighter enter another neighborhood in al-Raqqa city". ANHA. 
  47. ^ News, ANF. "SDF liberates Sabahiyah neighborhood west of Raqqa". ANF News. 
  48. ^ "SDF liberates al-Raqqa’s first neighborhood". ANHA. 
  49. ^ a b "US-backed force pierces into IS-held Raqqa from west". The Daily Star Lebanon. 
  50. ^ "Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve: June 10, 2017 Release # 20170610-01" (PDF). 
  51. ^ "After repelling their attack in the Division 17, “Euphrates Wrath” Operation Forces enter the second neighborhood in Al-Raqqah and take control of half of it and attempt to break into the third neighborhood". SOHR. 
  52. ^ "U.S.-led forces appear to be using white phosphorus in populated areas in Iraq and Syria". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-11. 
  53. ^ "More casualties raise the death toll to about 80 in the continued shelling on Al-Raqqah city". 
  54. ^ "With 6 days of consecutive clashes… the Elite Forces enter the 2nd neighbourhood east of Al-Raqqah and SDF control large parts of the 2nd neighbourhood west of it". SOHR. 
  55. ^ "داعش يشن 3 هجمات متزامنة في الرقة". June 10, 2017. 
  56. ^ a b Ahmed, Cihan Shekh (11 June 2017). "قواتنا تتقدم في حي الصناعة من الجهة الشرقية وحي حطين من الجهة الغربية". 
  57. ^ "SDF liberates Sahil village - ANHA". en.hawarnews.com. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  58. ^ News, ANF. "SDF fighters enter al-Berid neighborhood of Raqqa". ANF News. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  59. ^ News, ANF. "Sinaa neighborhood east of Raqqa cleared of ISIS". ANF News. 
  60. ^ Raqqa24 (2017-06-15). "Many US soldiers wounded due VBIED attack by #Daesh on their location in Sina'a neighborhood eastern side of #Raqqa. #R24". @24Raqqa. Retrieved 2017-06-18. 
  61. ^ vergès, j-c (18 June 2017). "#WrathOfEuphrates violent clashes between #SDF Manbij MC and #ISIS around Kasrat Jumaa,southern Euphrates River,south #Raqqah city.SOHRpic.twitter.com/ngTK7hKVob". 
  62. ^ "منبج الحــدث". www.facebook.com. 
  63. ^ News, ANF. "SDF liberates a neighborhood west of Raqqa from ISIS". ANF News. 
  64. ^ "Kurdish-led forces capture new district in Raqqa city, kill scores of ISIS militants". ARA News. 19 June 2017. 
  65. ^ "After the slowdown of the grand battel of Al-Raqqah… ISIS follows the tunnel tactic and besieges a group of fighters of the “Euphrates Wrath” Operation". SOHR. 19 June 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  66. ^ "Drone loaded with bombs downed in the sky of Al-Raqqah city and the “Islamic State” organization carries out a violent counter-attack at the walls of the old city". SOHR. 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2017-06-19. 
  67. ^ "Syrian Elite Forces break the siege of their 15 fighters at Bab Baghdad at the outskirts of the old city and lose their fourth fighter in the “Euphrates Wrath” Operation". 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2017-06-19. 
  68. ^ "In the highest daily death toll since the start of the grand battle of Al-Raqqah… 45 dead from the “Islamic State” organization in the clashes and continued shelling in the city". SOHR. 20 June 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017. 
  69. ^ "Heavy fighting on three fronts of Raqqa". ANF News. 
  70. ^ a b "Syrian Democratic Forces make new gains in anti-ISIS campaign, capture another district in Raqqa city". ARA News. 26 June 2017. 
  71. ^ ISIS fully encircled in Raqqa city after latest Kurdish advances
  72. ^ "Clashes in al-Qadisiyah neighborhood". Hawar News Agency. 25 June 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2017. 
  73. ^ Chris Tomson (26 June 2017). "ISIS concedes residential district while Kurdish forces cement siege of Raqqa city". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 26 June 2017. 
  74. ^ "Violent clashes in Al-Raqqah city and the “Islamic State” organization spares no effort to regain control of what it lost". SOHR. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  75. ^ "Continued clashes at the southern banks of the Euphrates, south of Al-Raqqah city". SOHR. 26 June 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2017. 
  76. ^ "ISIS resistance increasing in Raqqa: Coalition spokesman". ARA News. 26 June 2017. 
  77. ^ "Al-Ghota village liberated south of al-Raqqa". Hawar News Agency. 27 June 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  78. ^ "SDF carry out a violent attack at the walls of the old city of Al-Raqqah and advance at the southern banks of the Euphrates River". SOHR. 27 June 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 

External links[edit]