Syrian regime, Russian forces continue advance on Raqqa

Published June 3rd, 2016 - 12:38 GMT
Civilians walk through burning rubble in Raqqa. (AFP/File)
Civilians walk through burning rubble in Raqqa. (AFP/File)

The Syrian army has launched a new major offensive to liberate the northeastern city of Raqqa from the clutches of Daesh. 

The Beirut-based al-Akhbar newspaper said in a report on Friday that the new operation, backed by Russian airstrikes, does not expect to reach the Daesh-held Raqqa city “in the coming weeks,” but the aim is at least to reach Tabqa, some 50 km (30 miles) west of Raqqa.

Tabqa was captured by Daesh in 2014 and is home to Daesh’s arsenal.

On Thursday, the Syrian army announced that it had started a new operation against the militants in the Athriya area of eastern Hama province, some 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Tabqa and 50 km (30 miles) from the provincial frontier with Raqqah.

Syrian troops are focusing on eastern and northern areas of both Homs and Hama provinces “in the direction of Daesh gatherings.”

“The field leadership does not give information about the main direction or the secondary direction, but the direction is open to the two possibilities - Deir Ezzor and Raqqa,” sources in the army further said.

On Friday, Syrian warplanes heavily pounded the militants’ positions in the northern city of Aleppo, killing and injuring a number of them. 

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that the bombing raids had killed eight civilians as well.

The observatory said rocket fire on government-held areas of the city overnight caused several casualties, but it was unable to provide an exact toll.

More than 300 civilians have been killed in Aleppo since April as militants have pounded government-controlled neighborhoods with rocket and artillery fire and the government has hit militant positions with air raids.

In recent months, Daesh militants have been losing ground in both Syria and Iraq.

UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the crisis that has gripped Syria since March 2011.

Editor's note: This article has been edited from the original.

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