Backed Syrian forces expect Raqqa assault soon, await weapons

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Footage broadcast by the SDF on Friday showed fighters scaling the deserted dam to throw Isis' black flag to the ground, replacing it with huge banners bearing the logos of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and its women-only counterpart, the YPJ.

Partnered forces in Syria have liberated the Syrian city of Tabqa, a key development in the eventual defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon's director of press operations said today.

The joint Arab-Kurdish forces have received significant support from the US-led coalition in the form of air strikes and special forces advisers.

"The SDF now has further isolated ISIS in Raqqa, which is the group's stronghold, and will continue to pursue the military defeat of ISIS throughout Syria", he said.

The deputy head of the SDF, Qahraman Hassan, said: "In the beginning of the summer, we will storm and liberate (Raqa) city".

He said the alliance would receive "special weapons and armoured vehicles" to enter the city after President Donald Trump changed U.S. policy to allow arms deliveries to Kurdish as well as Arab SDF fighters.

No newly authorised aid had been delivered yet, Hassan said, but he added that "I believe this support will arrive soon".

Inside Tabqa, AFP s correspondent saw destroyed shops in the main marketplace, where jihadists had scrawled many of their slogans.

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As the fight around Tabqa intensified around two months ago, he fled with his six children and elderly parents.

"The civilians are coming back but there is a lack of water, electricity, bread and food", he said, sitting in front of a pile of sandbags.

Among its fighters is British woman Kimmie Taylor, who told The Independent she was bracing for a "bloodbath" in Raqqa while preparing for the offensive earlier this year.

"The fighting was really tough - there was artillery, warplanes, snipers. We will be monitoring it in real time".

Redur Khalil, the spokesman for the Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, on Thursday called on Turkey to let go of its "unjustified" fears of the group, which is battling Islamic State militants with the help of US -led airstrikes.

Turkish president Rayyip Erdogan has moved to soften his criticism of the US ahead of his official trip to Washington, D.C., next week, reports Reuters. Sandbag fortifications left behind by Islamic State fighters lined the roadside in Tabqa city.Some 25,000 people had been displaced from Tabqa during fighting in recent weeks, staying in informal settlements south of the city, a United Nations refugee agency official in Syria, Roupen Alexandrian, said.

Meanwhile, more than 1,200 residents and opposition fighters trapped in the Syrian capital Damascus left their neighbourhoods for rebel-held Idlib province Friday as part of a deal to return the last neighbourhoods of the capital to government control.

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