Engineers set to to enter IS-held parts of Syria dam

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor, said the alliance was fighting north of the airport to reinforce its positions.

Securing the dam, along with the surrounding town and adjacent airfield, will also provide Syrian and coalition forces with a prime "launching point" for future USA and coalition-led operations once the looming advance on Raqqa begins, coalition spokesman Col. Joseph Scrocca told reporters at the onset of the Tabqa Dam operation.

An SDF spokesman denied that coalition strikes hit the dam structure and said the airdrop landing last week was conducted to prevent any damage to the main structure by engaging the rebels away from the dam.

Pressure on the Islamic State has intensified in recent months as the group has suffered a series of battlefield losses in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The maintenance work, which entails opening a spillway to relieve the pressure of water on the dam, will involve the engineers entering areas held by ISIS, a technician inside the complex told AFP.

The jihadist group has released images of what it said was damage to buildings at the dam.

The Tabqa Dam, also known as the Euphrates Dam, and al-Thawra Dam (Dam of the Revolution), is as important for Syria as the massive Aswan Dam is for Egypt.

The jihadi group is now using the coalition offensive for control of the dam to spread rumors among Raqqa's civilian population, in what appears to be an attempt to malign enemy forces in the eyes of those living under its rule.

Earlier this week, United States forces airlifted SDF fighters and USA advisers behind ISIL lines to allow them to launch the Tabqa assault.

Syrian forces now control territory up to 13 miles around the historic city of Palmyra, Rudskoi said, adding that they recently seized control of high ground held by the Islamic State along a highway connecting Palmyra and the Syrian capital, Damascus.

But a spokesman for Moscow's forces in Syria, headquartered at the Hmeimim air base in Latakia, said on Monday that all Russian aircraft inside Syria were safely at their bases or on missions.

On Monday, ISIS fighters detonated a vehicle bomb on the southern edge of the air base, but it was not clear if it inflicted casualties among SDF fighters, the activist collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and the Observatory reported.

Other workers were wounded, and their condition was still unknown, the London-based watchdog group said.

Since Saturday, Abdulrahman says, the group has dispatched 940 fighters from central Raqqa into the surrounding Raqqa province to battle the SDF forces.

Syrian state TV had forecast that some 700 people would leave, far fewer than the final tally.

Opposition fighters agreed to leave al-Waer after years of siege and bombardment at the hands of pro-government forces.

In March 2016, the PYD and YPG declared that they would combine three Kurdish-led autonomous areas in northern Syria into a federal system.

Media outlets have noted that the child, who was found last week, appeared to be around 7 years old, and that Iraqi forces had to calm him down while removing the explosives pack.

Information for this article was contributed by Philip Issa of The Associated Press. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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