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Published: Tue, March 28, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

IS orders residents to evacuate Raqqa, warns Syrian dam at risk

IS orders residents to evacuate Raqqa, warns Syrian dam at risk

The airbase was seized by militants in 2014 from the Syrian Army.

US -backed local forces fighting Islamic State in Syria on Friday reached one side of the Tabqa dam, one of the top prizes in their campaign to drive the jihadist group from Raqqa city, local campaign officials said.

There are also reports that the US -led coalition may plan to use the base to provide supplies for SDF units in the upcoming battle of Raqqa.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, which also confirmed the airport's capture, said the SDF fighters were backed by US-led coalition strikes.

SDF spokesperson Silo denied that coalition strikes hit the structure of the dam and said the air drop landing last week was conducted to prevent any damage to the main structure by engaging the militants away from the dam.

Darwish said there are several powers in the USA -led anti-terror coalition that are taking part in the Raqqa battle, whether through aerial support or consultation.

Jihan Ahmed, the SDF spokesperson said that its forces were fighting the Islamic State (IS) at the entrance to the dam.

The first stage of the attack is aimed at isolating Raqqa from Tabqa and other IS positions in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.

The push toward the dam comes three days after US aircraft ferried Syrian Kurdish fighters and allies behind IS lines to spearhead a major ground assault on the IS-held town of Tabqa where the dam is located.

On Monday morning, SDF fighters pressed their offensive around the base, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

"France has always said that Raqqa was a major objective", the minister told French TV outlet CNews. ISIL has come under growing pressure from twin USA -backed ground offensives targeting Raqqa and their other main stronghold, Mosul in Iraq.

Online, experts say the upcoming battle for Raqqa is not yet a topic of discussion for the group's fighters or its supporters on forums or encrypted chat channels, with hardly any mention of the battle that awaits, despite the encroachment of the Kurdish and Arab fighters.

Speaking to reporters later Friday, U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura told reporters that he is not expecting miracles, breakthroughs, or even breakdowns, at the latest round of Syria peace talks in Geneva. "It will be a very hard battle but it will be an essential battle", Le Drian said.

US -backed Syrian Kurdish forces are battling IS near the militant-held dam as part of a broader campaign to take Raqqa.

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