In an effort to dislodge ISIS from its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria, the Kurds and the Syria Democratic Forces have announced the launch of a military campaign.
Forces led by the Kurds have launched operation “Euphrates Rage,” a campaign to liberate Raqqa in Syria, ISIS’ self-declared capital.
Some 30,000 fighters will take part in the offensive, and a joint operations command had been established to coordinate various the factions participating in the opearion.
The US, France and Britain will provide air support for the offensive, while the Kurds have warned Turkey to stay away from the fray.
The Kurds and the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the beginning of the campaign at a news conference in Ein Issa, north of Raqqa.
“We call on our heroic steadfast people in Raqqa and surrounding areas to stay away from enemy gatherings which will be a target for the liberating forces and the coalition forces, and to head to areas that will be liberated,” said Cihan Ehmed, an SDF fighter.
Raqqa is home to nearly 200,000 mostly Sunnis and an estimated 5,000 ISIS fighters. The city, which has been under ISIS control since early 2014, is home to some of the terror group’s top leaders and is seen as a crucial move in defeating the group militarily.
The start of the Raqqa offensive aims initially at isolating and encircling the city, and this will increases the pressure on ISIS, making it harder for its fighters to move between Syria and Iraq.
ISIS is also facing a massive Iraqi offensive to drive it out of Mosul, which it seized two years ago.
“I welcome today’s announcement by the SDF that the operation to free Raqqa from ISIL’s barbaric grip has begun,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. “The effort to isolate and ultimately liberate Raqqa marks the next step in our coalition campaign plan.”
“As in Mosul, the fight will not be easy and there is hard work ahead, but it is necessary to end the fiction of ISIL’s caliphate and disrupt the group’s ability to carry out terror attacks against the United States, our allies and our partners,” he added.
There has so far been no comment from the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government on the Kurdish announcement.
By: World Israel News
AP contributed to this report.