Syrian opposition calls on United States to spare civilians in Raqqa


Representational image, A USA -backed Syrian alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias on Sunday took a military airport in northern Syria held by Islamic State.

The United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are battling the Islamic State near both a key dam and a military airbase in Raqqa province on Tuesday, SDF commanders told Syria Direct, one day after a brief pause in the fighting to allow engineers to assess the dam's structural integrity.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a US-led worldwide coalition, said in a statement it had seized the air base.

Continuing with their efforts to expand in the area northwest of the ISIS capital city of Raqqa, US-backed forces from the Kurdish YPG are attacking targets in and around the town of Tabqa, in particular trying to gain more control of the area around the large Tabqa Dam.

The Syrian Democratic Forces in the course of fierce clashes with Daesh managed to take back control of the strategically important Tabqa military base situated near Raqqa.

Islamic State captured the dam and a nearby air base, located about 40 km (25 miles) upstream from Raqqa, at the height of its expansion in Syria and Iraq in 2014.

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Hundreds of families were fleeing the city of Tabqa to the relative safety of outlying areas as US-led coalition air strikes intensified in the past few days, according to former residents in touch with relatives.

The battle for Tabqa is a major part of the SDF's flagship campaign for the city of Raqa, the Syrian heart of IS's so-called "caliphate". "The dangers on the dam's collapse had disappeared", they said.

The SDF is advancing toward the city of Tabqa with the support of airstrikes carried out by the USA -led anti-Islamic State worldwide coalition.

A US coalition statement on Twitter also said it saw "no imminent danger" to the dam.

The airlift was a major development to the SDF's multi-front campaign to bear down on Raqqa as US -backed Iraqi forces simultaneously press their assault to seize Mosul from the militants in neighbouring Iraq.

The Syrian government had seized the town from Islamic State militants last March, only to lose it again 10 months later.

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The Islamic State claimed yesterday that coalition airstrikes had damaged the dam and warned the dam could burst.

Syrian Kurdish forces were in control of a spillway north of the dam that "can be used to alleviate pressure on the dam if need be", the coalition said in a letter to The Associated Press. The SDF later said engineers had entered the dam and found no damage or "malfunction".

"God forbid.there could be collapses or big failures that could lead to flooding", Saleh said.

"The capture of the dam is being conducted slowly and carefully and this is why the liberation of the dam needs more time", Silo said, adding that militants dug inside the dam knowing they would not be hit for fear of damaging the dam.

But SDF spokesman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed said later that the dam was neither damaged nor malfunctioning and government engineers had inspected its operations.

The dam is 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) long, 60 metres (about 200 feet) high and 512 metres (1,680 feet) wide at its base.

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"To ensure the integrity of the Tabqa dam. we have made a decision to stop operations for four hours beginning at 1:00pm (1100 GMT)", SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement.