Backed Syrian fighters seize parts of IS 'capital' Raqqa

Abdel Rahman said the increased toll brought civilian deaths in coalition raids to a total of 58 since the battle for Raqa city was launched on June 6.

It said the fighting there had left at least 12 Daesh fighters dead.

The city has always been seen as a prize by multiple parties to the Syrian conflict, including the government, Russia, Turkey and the US-led coalition bombing IS since 2014.

The forces are now advancing into al-Romania district in northwest Raqqa, the SDF and the Observatory said.

Al-Meshleb is one of the more built-up residential neighbourhoods in the city's east, while most other districts nearby are made up of markets and small shops.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) warned that the number of victims was increasing due to bombardments by the US-led worldwide coalition, which killed 24 people, including five minors and three women, reports Efe news.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said IS had "heavily fortified" the base in anticipation of a ferocious SDF assault on it.

Daesh still has a long sweep of territory along Syria's Euphrates valley and wide stretches of desert, despite recent losses to the SDF, the regime army and rebel groups.

The Observatory said Sunday that coalition air strikes the previous day killed 24 civilians inside the city, up from an earlier toll of 13 people.

The SDF, which comprises of Kurd, Arab and Assyrian fighters and led by the Kurdish YPG militia, previously captured the neighborhoods of Mashlab and Jazra in the city.

The Pentagon said in December it believed that the ISIS chief was alive, despite repeated efforts by the US-led coalition to take out the militant group leader.

Videos posted by Raqqa activists and personal accounts coming out of the city also cited witnesses saying the city was hit for the second consecutive night with incendiary bombs.

The coalition has been supplied with weapons from the USA, angering Turkey which claims that the weapons could well end up in the possession of the PKK and used in Turkey.

After a string of victories in the surrounding province, including the key town of Tabqa and the adjacent dam, the SDF has sealed off the approaches to Raqqa city from the north, east and west.

  • Leroy Wright