US-backed forces now have ISIS fighters surrounded in central Raqqa, a Syrian Kurdish commander said, but he predicted that driving the militants out could take up to four months.
“We’ve cleared about half of Old Raqqa … and we’re advancing on all axes,” said Haval Gabar, the 25-year-old commander from the Kurdish YPG militia who is directing the assault on the Old City front in ISIS’ Syrian stronghold.
Units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the YPG, fully linked up in Raqqa’s southern districts on Tuesday, encircling the militants in the city center which includes the Old City,
“The day before yesterday there was still a small gap,” Gabar said on Wednesday. “Yesterday it was closed. We are now pressing towards Mansour and Rashid districts.”
From his command post, a former Syrian government police headquarters overlooking the Old City walls, Gabar hunched over maps and radioed orders to YPG units 400 meters ahead in the densely-built city center.
As he spoke, the sound of machine gun fire barked over his walkie-talkie while air strikes staged by the US-led coalition slammed into targets nearby.