Kurdish-led forces say they will advance on IS capital

The Raqqa Campaign, a Facebook page affiliated with the Kurdish-led forces, says the fighters seized the cotton factory, 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) north of the city on Saturday.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said it has received light weaponry from the United States, not heavy ones as circulated by some media outlets.

The US decision to equip the SDF with weapons was a snub to Turkey, which does not want the Kurdish-led force to take Raqqa and has offered its own troops instead.

Regarding the US decision to arm Kurdish elements of the SDF, Davis said the arming has not yet begun.

He said a group of around 70 Isis fighters conceded to unspecified terms laid down by the SDF, including the dismantling of IEDs and booby traps, the surrender of heavy weaponry and forced withdrawal of remaining fighters from Tabqa city.

"At the start of entering (Raqqa), of course, as (the USA -led coalition) promised us, there will be support in the form of specialized weapons, armored vehicles or others", he said. The advance left no significant IS-held urban settlements between SDF lines and Raqqa.

Concerns were raised earlier this year that the dam could be damaged in the fighting or degraded by lack of maintenance, or that the extremists might sabotage it to flood the surrounding areas. The only alternative would be to send USA ground troops into Syria on a scale beyond anything either the administration or the American people want.

The SDF also announced it would hand over the town to civilian administrators.

But one crucial steppingstone in the campaign to oust the militant group from Raqqa was finally reached Tuesday, when President Donald Trump made a decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters poised to move in on the northern Syrian city.

Turkey has long regarded the YPG as a terrorist force linked with the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a separatist group that Ankara has clashed with for decades.

The issue is set to dominate talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his American counterpart Donald Trump next week, the first meeting between the two heads of state. Turkey, along with the US and Europe, lists the party, known as the PKK, as terrorist organization.

SDF commander Abdul Qader Hevdeli declined to say when exactly the assault on Raqqa would begin, but said it would be soon.

Turkey has shelled YPG positions inside Syria but has also backed rebel groups against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and against IS jihadists.

The city is largely surrounded and it is only a matter of time before YPG and other forces in a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance launch an offensive against the city.

The Pentagon said on Friday it played no part in an unusual deal in which Islamic State (IS) group militants were allowed to leave a key town in Syria - only for some of them to be killed anyway.

  • Leroy Wright