12 JUNE 2017 – A US-backed Syrian opposition force said it has captured a northwestern neighbourhood of the Isis de-facto capital of Raqqa – the second district to fall in their hands in days after the group launched a wide offensive to gain control of the city.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said its fighters captured the neighbourhood of Romaniah after two days of fighting that left 12 Isis gunmen dead, including a commander known as Abu Khattab al-Tunsi.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said SDF fighters now control Romaniah and the eastern neighbourhood of Mashlab.

The fighters have also entered Raqqa’s western neighborhood of Sabahiya and the industrial district in the east.

Raqqa was among the first cities captured by Isis in January 2014, and has been the home of some of the group’s most prominent leaders. The battle for the city is expected to be extended and bloody, and could mark a major turning point in the war against the extremists.

Isis has been fortifying its positions in Raqqa for months, setting up barriers and hanging sheets of cloth over main streets to provide cover from warplanes. A belt of land mines and militant checkpoints circle the city.

SDF fighters began their offensive on the city of Raqqa on 6 June under the cover of airstrikes by the US-led coalition.

The Isis-linked Amaq news agency said the city was subjected to intense airstrikes and shelling by the SDF and the US-led coalition, releasing a video that showed widespread destruction in one of the neighbourhoods.

The video also showed severely wounded men and children being rushed to hospitals.

In southern Syria, Jordan said its border guards have killed five suspected infiltrators approaching the kingdom’s border from Syria in a pickup truck and two motorcycles.

The military said in a statement that the incident took place near the spot where Jordan, Syria and Iraq meet.

Jordan has been on alert for possible infiltrations by Isis extremists who seized territories in Syria and Iraq in 2014. In recent months, Jordan expressed concern that US-backed offensives against Isis will push some of the militants closer to the kingdom’s border.

The army said nine vehicles approached Jordan from Syria in the past three days, and border guards opened fire to hold them back. The army says that in the latest incident, troops fired on a pickup truck and two motorcycles, killing five.


(INDEPENDENT) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-raqqa-us-coalition-fighters-seize-isis-territory-a7784891.html (IMAGE) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-raqqa-us-coalition-fighters-seize-isis-territory-a7784891.html