Backed forces breach wall in Syria's Raqa

Backed forces breach wall in Syria's Raqa”

USA -backed forces have breached the wall around the Old City section of Raqqa, Syria, as they advance a month-old offensive to oust the Islamic State group from its de facto capital.

The breach of the wall comes after the alliance, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, encircled the entire city after capturing two southern villages that ISIS militants were fleeing to. Head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman said that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) started a counter-offensive on Friday night to retake Al-Senaa. The U.S. -backed forced breached the Old City in Raqqa, the U.S. -led coalition said on Monday. Last month, they entered the city for the first time from the eastern and western sides. Video footage posted by activists showed a convoy of vehicles with cheering fighters heading to join the battle.

The liberation of Raqqa would represent a major blow to the IS militants, who captured large swathes of territory in 2014 in brutal fighting against Syrian and Iraqi government forces, declaring an Islamic "caliphate" over areas they controlled.

"Coalition forces supported the SDF advance into the most heavily fortified portion of [Raqqa] by opening two small gaps in the Rafiqah Wall that surrounds the Old City", the US Central Command said in a statement.

The city became infamous as the scene of some of the group's worst atrocities, including public beheadings, and is thought to have been a hub for planning attacks overseas.

The fighting is part of a six-year civil war in Syria.

The IS fighters entered the battle and are separately opposed by all other sides.

Success in Raqa and major advances by US -backed forces in Mosul, a second IS stronghold in Iraq, represent a powerful double blow to the violent extremist group.

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