Tabnak – Less than a week after the start of US-backed forces against ISIS terrorists in Raqqa, recent reports suggest that they have mange to push the terrorists back is some areas. However, claims about the US-led coalition using white phosphorus munitions in the city have sparked controversies.
Reports published earlier on Sunday suggest that the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have entered the western regions of ISIS’ last stronghold in Syria, Raqqah, which is also regarded as their self-proclaimed capital.
According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the US-backed SDF entered the city from the western front that is currently engaged in heavy clashes with the terrorists.
"The SDF captured the western half of the al-Sabahiya neighborhood and are reinforcing their positions there," said observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. "They then advanced north to the adjacent district of al-Romaniya and are fighting ISIS," he added.
The SDF has also confirmed that it has entered the city and is engaged in "fierce fighting” in Romaniya. "ISIS has reinforced the northern approach to Raqqah much more, thinking that's how the SDF would try to advance on the city…The western and eastern entrances to the city were much less fortified," noted Rahman.
The SDF, led by the Kurdish YPG armed group, have been encircling Raqqa since November. Backed by US-led air power, the SDF began a major offensive on Tuesday to seize the city that ISIS captured from other armed groups in 2014.
According to Aljazeera, between 3,000 and 4,000 ISIS fighters are thought to be holed up in Raqqa, where they continue to erect defenses against the anticipated assault.
However, as SDF is continuing its advance toward the central parts of Raqqa, concerns are mounting about the humanitarian aspects of the operation. In this regard, Reuters reports that former residents in touch with relatives in the beleaguered city said at least 50 people, mostly civilians, were killed in escalating US-led strikes in the last 24 hours on residential areas inside the city.
More than 10 people were killed and dozens injured on Saturday when jets believed to belong to the US-led coalition hit the city's main Nour Street in the center of the commercial area, they said.
At the same time, video released yesterday by the ISIS-owned Amaq website showed aerial bombing, using white phosphorus munitions, which was claimed to be carried out by the US-led international coalition on Raqqa.
The Washington Post explains in its report that the often-controversial munitions are common in western militaries and are used primarily to create smoke screens, though they can also be dropped as an incendiary weapon.
When a white phosphorus shell explodes, the chemical inside reacts with the air, creating a thick white cloud. When it comes in contact with flesh, it can maim and kill by burning to the bone.
On the other hand, the conflict had resulted in massive displacements in and around Raqqa, with up to 80,000 children now internally displaced in Syria and living in temporary shelters and camps.
At the same time, it should be noted that to the west of Raqqa, the Syrian army and its allies have advanced into ISIS territory and on Friday reached SDF lines near the town of Tabqa, 40km (25 miles) from the city.
The Syrian government however has described the SDF's war against ISIS as "legitimate" and said its military priorities are further east, suggesting it does not plan to confront the group, at least for now.