Backed forces enter Daesh-held airport

US-backed Syrian rebels are trying to capture Raqqa from IS.

Moscow does not share the "optimism" of the French official, Russia's Defense Ministry said Saturday.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokeswoman Cihan Sheikh Ehmed said her forces were at the southern entrance of the Tabqa dam complex on the Euphrates River.

The group said in a statement on social media that USA infantry were also airlifted into the area of operations. The SDF is an alliance of the main Kurdish groups in northern Syria, with the main force made up of People's Protection Units known as the YPG.

"On the south side of the dam, after securing their landing zones and the surrounding areas the SAC forces South of Lake Assad established a beachhead and a water line of communication with the rest of the SDF on the North side of the lake".

The offensive to liberate the city, captured by IS militants in 2013, has intensified this week, when additional U.S. and Syrian opposition forces have been airdropped to the Raqqa province.

The SDF entered the airport earlier Sunday, with Sello saying the alliance's forces were engaged in fierce clashes with IS.

The SDF has trapped Raqqa in a shrinking pocket of territory on the northern bank of the Euphrates and has advanced toward it in a multi-pronged offensive over several months.

The Syrian Democratic Forces are also battling for the nearby Tabqa dam, held by IS, which was forced out of service on Sunday after its power station was damaged, a technical source there told AFP.

The jihadist group is under pressure on several fronts, with government forces backed by Russian Federation attacking it elsewhere, along with rebel fighters supported by Turkish firepower.

On Wednesday, a Syrian military source said the army is sending reinforcements to face a major militant offensive in Hama province.

A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Speaking after Friday's start of a new round of United Nations -mediated peace talks in Geneva, Bashar al-Ja'afari also insisted that "American warplanes" had bombed a school in the village of Mansourah, west of Raqqa, a day earlier and were responsible for the deaths of 237 civilians among some 500 people fleeing Raqqa.

"Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city", said the release.

The U.S. airlift of rebel fighters into combat in northern Syria marks a further deepening of American military involvement in the war against the Islamic State group.

US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces are squeezing ISIS from the north, while Syrian government troops - backed up by Russian Federation - have been pushing from the west. "Those who are truly fighting Daesh [IS] are the Syrian Arab army with the help of our allies from Russian Federation and Iran", he added, saying that Washington's presence and "arming factions in Syria and encouraging them to challenge the authority of the state does not serve the fight against terrorism".

The charity group Save the Children said the Hama fighting has displaced 10,000 people.

  • Leroy Wright