Beirut- ISIS militants mobilized in the Syrian city of Raqqa on Friday ahead of a new round of battles, which local activists expected to be tantamount to urban warfare.
The International Coalition has pounded Raqqa’s bridges on the Euphrates River, cutting off any connection between the two sides linking the river while the Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militias were still advancing towards the city.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, SDF spokesperson Talal Silo said the Americans did not yet inform the group about the content of Washington’s agreement with Ankara concerning the liberation of Raqqa.
“We had previously opposed any involvement of Turkish forces in the Raqqa battle. However, if there was a U.S.-Turkish agreement in this regard, we would probably discuss the issue to reach an appropriate formula to liberate the city,” Silo said.
U.S. Army Colonel and Spokesperson for the Combined Joint Task Force John Dorrian said on Thursday night during a news briefing from Baghdad that in total, more than 3,410 kilometers square of territory has been liberated since the operation to isolate Raqqa began Nov. 5.
The SDF and their partners have encountered “light to moderate” resistance as the enemy’s command-and-control system struggles to deal with multiple ongoing operations simultaneously, he added.
Meanwhile, Moscow is currently busy trying to mediate between the Syrian regime and political and military opposition factions.
At the battlefield, Russia is working to set the temp of the ongoing battle in al-Bab city following clashes between Ankara-backed opposition fighters, and Syrian regime forces and their allies on Thursday night.
Also in al-Bab, Turkey denied on Friday Kremlin’s announcement that Ankara provided the coordinates for the Russian airstrike, which killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “Turkish soldiers should not have been there,” adding there is no dispute regarding the cause of the incident.
At the political level, the outcome of a meeting held earlier between members of the Syrian Coalition and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov were discussed by the High Negotiations Committee in Riyadh on Friday.
In a related development, head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad rejected during an interview with Yahoo News the creation of safe zones for refugees and displaced people in Syria, an idea supported by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Assad signaled he would welcome cooperation with Washington in the fight against ISIS, however, as long as the United States took a “clear political position” on Syria’s sovereignty and unity.