Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:13AM
Members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) warm themselves by a fire on the bank of the Euphrates River, west of Raqqah, Syria, April 8, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Members of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) warm themselves by a fire on the bank of the Euphrates River, west of Raqqah, Syria, April 8, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

US-backed Kurdish fighters are reportedly advancing against Daesh in a town near the Syrian city of Raqqah, the Takfiri group’s stronghold in the Arab country.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Sunday that heavy clashes were underway in Tabqa.

SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman said Kurdish fighters were in control of at least 40 percent of the town and over half of its center despite Daesh attacks and bombings to slow their advances.

US-backed forces, known as Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), surrounded Tabqa in early April, entering the town on Monday as part of an offensive to capture Raqqah. The operation, dubbed "Wrath of the Euphrates," was launched last November.

Tabqa is situated on a strategic supply route some 55 kilometers west of Raqqah and serves as an important Daesh command base. The town also lies near Tabqa Dam, commonly known as the Euphrates dam that is held by Daesh. 

This photo shows a view of the northern part of the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, Syria, March 28, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The so-called Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) forms the backbone of the SDF. Ankara has been pressing the US to drop its military alliance with the YPG which it views as part of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Washington, however, considers the YPG as one of the most important allies in Syria.

Speaking at a business conference in the city of Istanbul on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the US to join hands and turn Raqqah "into a graveyard" for Daesh. He also called on the US not to use Kurdish forces for the Raqqah operation.

The developments come amid fresh escalation in tensions along the Turkish-Syrian border, with Turkey and the US moving armored vehicles to the area.

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The deployment on Friday and Saturday followed Turkish airstrikes Kurdish positions in northern Iraq and in northeastern Syria.

Ankara said the air raids were meant to “destroy these terror hubs which threaten the security, unity and integrity of our country and our nation.” 

The YPG said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the Turkish strikes, which was followed by cross-border clashes.