Iraq News

US begins sending arms to SDF fighters in Syria

The US on Tuesday (May 30th) began providing small arms to fighters battling the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in the ranks of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), AFP reported.

The weapons transfers have begun ahead of an upcoming offensive to recapture al-Raqa city in northern Syria, the last major ISIS stronghold in the country.

"We have begun to transfer small arms and vehicles" to the elements of the SDF, said Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway.

The weapons include AK-47s and small-caliber machine guns, he added.

The SDF have now advanced to within a few miles of al-Raqa on several fronts.

Meanwhile, a battalion of Syrian Arab fighters on Tuesday edged closer to the outskirts of al-Raqa, a spokesman for the unit and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Our forces are 400 metres from al-Mishleb", a neighbourhood in the eastern outskirts of al-Raqa city, said Syrian Elite Forces spokesman Mohammad Khaled Shaker.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the advance came after heavy coalition airstrikes.

Shaker said his battalion was not part of the SDF but "an independent group within the international coalition" that acted "in co-ordination and co-operation” with the alliance.

The Syrian Elite Forces was formed in early 2016, Abdel Rahman said, and its members come from the Arab tribes from al-Raqa province and the neighbouring province of Deir Ezzor.

The battalion is headed by Ahmad Jarba, who led top Syrian opposition body the National Coalition from July 2013 for a year.

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