Over 1,000 new fighters join Syrian Democratic Forces in fight for Raqqa

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Raqqa – The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will launch the second phase of the Raqqa campaign against ISIS on Saturday and have recruited more than 1,000 fighters to join the operation.

The co-Chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Salih Muslim, said on Wednesday that the first phase of the Raqqa campaign to surround the city is almost over.

“The second phase of Liberating Raqqa will be declare tomorrow in press conference,” said Massoud Masoud, a Kurdish journalist.

The PYD co-Chair said that the first stage of the operation is to besiege Raqqa and that this phase is almost finished. But going to Raqqa depends on the international coalition and international powers. “[It depends] how much they are ready to prepare such power to liberate Raqqa with the international alliance.” Muslim said.

Coalition spokesperson Air Force Col. John Dorrian on Thursday said that airstrikes are accelerating in Raqqa on ISIS fighters and resources in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces’ offensive, and 300 such strikes in the past month enabled liberation of more than 270 square miles of territory from ISIS.

Liberating territory in northern Syria has freed up thousands of civilians from ISIS’s grip, but many remain displaced. “Many of those people are moving into Manbij,” Dorrian said, “but unfortunately, as they move in that direction, and even as they find refuge in and around the city, they’re being targeted by ISIS small arms and [improvised explosive device] attacks.”

The Kurdish-led SDF and its Arab elements established a governance representing the local population, and it’s begun to supply services to Manbij, including opening more than 240 schools since the city’s liberation, according to Dorrian, who added that a similar system is expected for Raqqa once it is liberated.

“As the SDF isolates Raqqa, the number of SDF fighters continues to grow, as another Arab brigade joins the SDF with more than 1,000 citizens, men and women, joining to reclaim and protect their homes,” he said.

More than 1,500 new SDF fighters are being trained to participate in the Raqqa campaign and defend the forward line of troops. The majority of the new recruits are Arabs, which, according to the coalition, is critical to the liberation and to setting up governance for the city’s residents.

Roughly four weeks ago, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launched the Euphrates Wrath Operation, with support from the US-led coalition. The operation’s long-term objective is the isolation and elimination of the Islamic State in Raqqa.

During the first phase of Euphrates Wrath, SDF soldiers captured an area measuring approximately 560 km2, containing dozens of towns, villages and farms. Military sources told ARA News that more than 185 ISIS jihadists have been killed since November 6.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), Syriac Military Council, Raqqa Revolutionaries Battalion and Tel Abyad Revolutionary Brigade are participating in Euphrates Wrath. In addition to these local fighters, foreign soldiers from a half-dozen nations are participating, either as YPG volunteers or under the auspices of the US-led coalition.

Reporting by: Enwer Omar and Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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Over 1,900 Iraqi security officers killed by ISIS as fight for Mosul rages

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Erbil – At least 1,959 members of the Iraqi security forces have been killed since the launch of the anti-ISIS Mosul operation on 17 October, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

“The number of civilians killed in November was 926, and the number of civilians injured was 930. Fifty-two foreign civilians were killed and 31 injured in November,” UNAMI said.

“A total of 1,959 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed, including police engaged in combat functions, Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside the Iraqi Army, not including Anbar Operations. Also, 450 others were injured,” the UN organization said.

According to the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Ján Kubiš, the casualty figures are staggering in northern Iraq, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims.

“In its desperate attempt to cling on to territory it controls in Mosul and Nineveh areas, Daesh [ISIS] has been employing the most vicious tactics, using civilian homes as firing positions as well as abducting and forcibly moving civilians, effectively using them as human shields” Kubiš said.

ISIS Capital Under Fire

Mosul is considered a de facto capital for ISIS in Iraq. The group took over the city in June 2014, and immediately afterwards ISIS announced its self-proclaimed Caliphate.

On October 17th, 2016, the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a major battle for Mosul to liberate the city and its surroundings from ISIS.

Backed by an air cover from the US-led coalition, the Iraqi forces have recently took control of major towns in Mosul countryside beside recapturing several neighbourhoods in the city–which is deemed the main ISIS bastion in Iraq.

The Iraqi Army General Command announced in November that more than 2,000 Islamic State jihadists have been killed since the start of the battle for Mosul.

Human Shields

The United Nations reported that ISIS extremists have been using civilians as human shields in the fight for Mosul.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) warned that it continues to receive reports of “serious breaches” of international human rights and humanitarian law by ISIS in and around the war-torn city.

According to the OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, ISIS has been installing rocket launchers and placing snipers on the rooftops of civilian homes, while also threatening to kill those who refuse to cooperate.

“These families are effectively used as human shields, placed squarely in harm’s way, caught between ISIS and Iraqi Security Force fire responding to rocket and sniper attacks,” she said.

Reporting by: Ehmed Shiwesh and Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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