The ISIS terrorist group shelled on Wednesday positions held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, forcing engineers to pause efforts to stop a potential collapse, a Reuters witness said.
ISIS fired from the southern end of the dam, which it controls, and at least two explosions were heard. No one was injured. The engineers, who are working to open the spillways to relieve water pressure in the dam, later returned to work.
The SDF captured last week the northern part of the dam, which is a major strategic objective of the US-backed campaign to isolate and capture the ISIS-held city of Raqqa, some 40 km (25 miles), to the east.
The engineers were also at the dam on Tuesday carrying out an assessment as they try to open the two spillways, one of which is half open and the other is completely shut.
The SDF and US-led coalition have said the dam is not in danger after the Syrian regime on Sunday said it had been damaged by US air strikes and could collapse, with the risk of catastrophic flooding.
ISIS has also said the dam’s operating systems were not working properly and it was vulnerable to collapse.
The head of the Kurdish YPG militia, fighting in the Raqqa campaign as part of the SDF alliance, has said the final assault on the city will begin in early April.
In a separate development, five people were killed and at least seven wounded after a bomb attack on a bus in Syria’s third city Homs, pro-regime media reported.
The blast hit a small bus carrying passengers in the Al-Zahraa neighborhood, which has repeatedly been targeted in bombings.
In December, four people were killed in a blast at a Red Crescent center in the neighborhood, and in February a double bomb attack claimed by ISIS killed 57 people.
According to media reports, Homs governor Talal Barazi said four of those killed were female students heading to university on the bus.
Homs, which is mostly held by the regime, was once dubbed the “capital of the revolution” because of the large-scale protests held in the city when the uprising began in March 2011.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in the conflict and millions driven from their homes.