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Syrian Democratic Forces hold two-thirds of al-Raqa

By AFP

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A picture taken on September 5th shows smoke billowing out following a coalition airstrike in the western al-Daraya neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of al-Raqa. [Delil Souleiman/AFP]

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, now controls more than two-thirds of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) former Syrian stronghold of al-Raqa, AFP reported Thursday (September 14th).

The SDF entered al-Raqa in early June, after months of fighting to encircle the city with support from the international coalition against ISIS.

The forces "control 70% of al-Raqa after taking the al-Thakana district in the centre of the city", said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The advance was made possible by violent clashes and heavy airstrikes by the international coalition," he told AFP.

"We can say that the battle for al-Raqa has entered its final phase," he added.

The fierce fighting has pushed civilians to flee away from the frontline into remaining ISIS-held areas in the north of the city, the monitor said.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the fighting since the SDF offensive began.

The UN estimates up to 25,000 people could remain trapped in the city, though the Observatory said the number is now fewer than 10,000.

The monitor said "a few hundred" ISIS elements remain in the city, adding that the SDF was continuing to sustain losses, with ISIS using mines and snipers to target the attacking force.

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