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Syria’s Kurds Change Direction of Battle from Raqqa to Manbij | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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File photo of Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), who are fighting alongside with the Democratic Forces of Syria, standing near the Tishrin dam, after they captured it from ISIS, south of Kobani, Syria December 27, 2015. Reuters/Rodi Said

Beirut-The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) amended their plan to control the stronghold of ISIS in Syria’s Raqqa by crossing the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in the direction of Manbij city, one of the main strongholds of the organization in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.

The majority Kurdish SDF launched on Wednesday one of its largest military operations against ISIS, supported by the United States and in coordination with Russia. This operation stretches across 70 kilometers and separates the areas controlled by ISIS in the eastern rural area of Aleppo.

A Kurdish military source close to the operation told Asharq Al-Awsat that this operation is important because it cuts off reinforcements and connection lines between the leaders and members of ISIS in Raqqa from the countryside of north Aleppo, and later, besieges them in small geographic areas stretching along the deep Syrian territories to the border lines with Turkey.

The Kurdish military source added: “This operation separates Raqqa from its last artery,” after the SDF has controlled a large area of reinforcement lines from Iraq to the rural area of Hassaka.

Head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdelrahman told Asharq Al-Awsat: “This operation is the largest. It is a U.S.-Russian operation in Syria to defeat ISIS.”

Abdelrahman said this new military expansion would start from the west, at the back of the western strip of the Euphrates River, and not from the south, in the direction of Raqqa. He added that this expansion would not get near the borderline with Turkey due to previous sensibilities with Ankara.

“The Kurds will profit enormously by moving to Manbij,” he said.

“There is a big possibility that the battle starts from the side facing Afreen in the direction of the eastern part of the rural area of Mareh, and from the north, in the direction of Tal Jabreen,” Abdelrahman added.

Sources from the SDF in Afreen asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat that “talks started between factions of the Syrian opposition besieged in Mareh and the Syrian Democratic Forces to allow the latter to enter Mareh and join the opposition forces to confront ISIS and expel it from the city.”