Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by the United States have breached a perimeter wall that surrounds the Old City of Raqqa, as the battle rages around the last stronghold of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.
SDF fighters had penetrated the Rafiqah Wall as the battle intensified. Reports were surfacing of Islamic State fighters trying to wear SDF uniforms in attempts to escape and disrupt SDF and coalition fighter operations.
On Monday night, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) issued a statement confirming that Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — supported by coalition fighters — had found a way through the historic Rafiqah Wall.
“Coalition forces supported the SDF advance into the most heavily fortified portion of Raqqa by opening two small gaps in the Rafiqah Wall that surrounds the Old City,” CENTCOM said in the statement. “The portions targeted were 25-meter sections and will help preserve the remainder of the overall 2,500-meter wall,” it added, without specifying where those portions were.
Citing local media, CNN reports that The Rafiqah Wall is approximately 3.1 miles long, more than 12 feet high and more than three feet thick. According to CENTCOM, ISIS fighters had taken positions there to defend the city and planted explosive devices at breaks in the wall.
The U.S. envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, Brett McGurk, called breaching the wall “a key milestone in the campaign to liberate the city” on his twitter page. Earlier on Monday, McGurk tweeted that ISIS terrorists were “down to less than one square kilometer” in Mosul and totally surrounded in Raqqa.
The US-backed coalition has killed a reported 1000 IS fighters in the past month and with the noose tightening, only about 300, mostly foreign fighters remain. Their only escape route is the Euphrates River where they’ll be easily detectable and the coalition is actively trying to sink every boat it can.
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Photo Courtesy DOD