‘In the name of humanity’: Intl anti-terror force advances on ISIS capital Raqqa

Syria Democratic Forces fighters. © Rodi Said
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by Kurdish militias, have liberated at least five villages and several farms in an effort directed against the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS. An RT crew spoke with the group.

SDF and its most powerful striking force, the Kurdish YPG, were able to liberate the villages of Al-Fatsa, Al-Wasta, A- Mechzhardzha, and Hadar Al-Khalil, after starting the Raqqa offensive on Tuesday.

With the help of US-led coalition airstrikes, the SDF is continuing to gain ground. According to an RT crew traveling with the rearguard of the anti-terror forces, ground troops from the international coalition are also providing assistance to Syrian forces fighting ISIS. RT Arabic has reporting seeing more than 15 apparently “American fighters” following SDF to “coordinate” the anti-ISIS military campaign.

“Our forces advanced in Raqqa, regaining territory with a depth of more than 6km from the northern border of the province,” the SDF leadership said in a statement, according to ARA, an independent press agency.

Following fierce clashes on the periphery of the city, an RT Arabic crew reported that according to radio intercepts of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) communications the terrorists have consistently demanded more reinforcement from their jihadist brothers in arms.

Meanwhile the anti-IS forces are continuously scouting local villages searching for deserted IS fighters. The retreating IS fighters flock to Raqqa.

“We are now combing through the villages searching for ISIS militants,” one of the SDF fighters, Hassan Al-Raqqah, told RT. “Democratic Syrian Forces have made great gains on the ground.”

“Oppression and ISIS actions against the residents of Raqqa is unbearable. In Raqqa women are subjected to suffering. Our goal is to save them from the hands of ISIS,” a Kurdish fighter with the anti-terror force told RT.

Visiting the scenes of the battleground RT has also managed to talk to some of the foreign fighters who joined the SDF force.

“We fight against Daesh, and we fight for democracy,” an SDF fighter from Canada, Kabar Tolholdan, told RT, adding that his fight is to defend the “Kurds against aggression.”

“It is a fight in the name of humanity. So it is normal that people from the whole humanity come here to fight, because we fight for freedom and democracy,” Tolholdan said.

Russia, who is leading an effective air campaign in Syria against terrorists which recently helped the government forces to liberate the ancient city of Palmyra , has offered Washington its hand in the battle for Raqqa. On Tuesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is ready to coordinate efforts with the Kurds and the US-led coalition to liberate the city in the most effective manner.

US state Department spokesman Mark Toner however rejected the helping hand, saying that Washington believes that “with our support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, that we can effectively put pressure on Raqqa, acting with the coalition.”

Col. Steve Warren, spokesman the US-led coalition against ISIS told the CNN that besides “air power” and equipment, Washington is also “providing advice and assistance to the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

READ MORE: ‘US should run with Moscow’s offer to cooperate in Raqqa’

“That is happening to the rear. It’s important to note we don’t have forces upfront in the lines there. But we are in their ops centers and their headquarters providing them with some advice,” Warren said.

Raqqa was captured by Islamic State in 2013. A year later the city was proclaimed the terror group’s “capital.” The city has since been hit by airstrikes from the Syrian government, Russia, the US and other anti-terror coalition countries.