(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have seized 350 square km (135 square miles) in the past week, tightening "their noose" on Islamic State in an advance to isolate its base of operations at Raqqa, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said on Wednesday.
Some 3,000 to 4,000 Islamic State fighters are thought to be holed up in Raqqa city where they continue to erect defenses against the anticipated assault, drawing coalition air strikes to stop them, Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, told Reuters in a phone interview from Baghdad.
The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, has been encircling Raqqa since November in a multi-phased offensive backed by the US-led coalition that is also fighting Islamic State in Iraq. Last week, the SDF accomplished a major goal by capturing Tabqa some 50 km (30 miles) west of Raqqa.