Middle East News

SDF continues assault on Tabqa area near Raqqa, Syria

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched an assault on March 24 to capture the Tabqa Dam, near Raqqa, Syria, from Islamic State.

Syrian Democratic Forces launched an assault on March 23 to capture the Tabqa Dam, near Raqqa, Syria, from Islamic State.

The operations near Taqba began after US-led coalition against Islamic State air-dropped US and Syrian Democratic Forces near Tabqa, west of Raqqa, on March 22. The operation involved Apache helicopters, US Marine artillery and US special operations troops.

Since then, significant advances have been made and SDF forces have captured several villages. They were reinforced by troops and equipment that crossed the Euphrates river by boat.

Live updates at the bottom of this post


March 28

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve said in a briefing to reporters by telephone from Iraq that the SDF had captured Tabqa airfield on March 27.

“[The SDF] were supported by coalition advisers, U.S. and coalition airpower, Marine heavy artillery, and Army Apache helicopter gunships.”

Townsend reiterated that the coalition “has taken every precaution to ensure the integrity of Tabqa Dam … We don’t assess that the dam is in any imminent danger and, to our knowledge, the dam has not been structurally damaged.”

“The Tabqa Dam is not a coalition target and when strikes occur on military targets, at or near the dam, we use non-cratering munitions to avoid unnecessary damage to the facility.”

AFP reported that coalition forces were seen by a correspondent on March 28, “standing near military vehicles less than two kilometres (one mile) from the [Tabqa] dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby,” and that “American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the US Marine Corps [were] seen moving along a nearby road.”

AFP’s correspondent saw technicians accompanied by Syrian Arab Red Crescent personnel examining the dam.

AFP also released March 27 images of US Marine Corps vehicles on a road north of Raqqa:

US Marine Corps on a road north of Raqqa, northern Syria, March 27, 2017. Image: @GebeilyM/Twitter

IS attacked Tabqa airbase in the morning of March 28, ANF reported. The attack began with a car-bomb that was “destroyed from a safe distance” and ANF said IS suffered heavy casualties during the clashes that followed.

A map published by Cizre Canton confirms SDF gains north of the Euphrates:

https://twitter.com/CizireCanton/status/846697518280949765

Overnight

March 27

Coalition airstrikes published March 28

  • Near Ar Raqqa, five strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units; and destroyed eight barges, a vehicle, a front-end loader, and a truck and trailer.
  • Near Tabqah, five strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units; and destroyed a front-end loader and a vehicle.

Syrian Democratic Forces spokesperson Cihan Shekh Ahmed said in a statement that engineers had inspected the Tabqa dam and confirmed it is undamaged, adding that the temporary ceasefire in the dam area is over. Earlier, the SDF said it was pausing operations near the Tabqa dam for four hours to allow engineers to enter and work.

The SDF published images of Taqba airbase.

ANHA says clashes continue near Abu Rashid, which was liberated by the SDF on March 26.

SDF released drone footage of Tabqa airbase runways and said it recovered the bodies of 17 IS militants after its capture.

ANHA published additional drone footage of Tabqa airbase

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWlONpg4gpc

ANF says the SDF has “liberated the villages of Sahil al-Xashab and Ûwayic Odyan to the east of the Siwêdiya Mezin, bringing to 14 the number of villages and hamlets liberated in the Tabqa area.

AHNA named the villages as Sahel al-Khashab and A’weyj Widyan. Both of these villages are north of the Euphrates, to the east of the Tabqa dam.

The @CivilWarMap Twitter account said SDF forces captured Al Mazlum, also north of the Euphrates.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes in the Tabqa area had killed at least 90 civilians, a quarter of them children, while injuring dozens, Reuters reported.

March 26

Raqqa 24 said there were “clashes near the northern entrance of the Euphrates [Tabqa] Dam from midnight until morning.”

There was some disparity over the current condition of the Tabqa dam.

Islamic State’s Amaq agency said that the Euphrates (Tabqa) dam was near collapse due to recent airstrikes and rising water levels.

AFP reported a source at the dam said the power station was damaged by shelling, forcing operations to be halted on March 26.

SDF spokesperson Talal Silo insisted there was no imminent danger to the dam, telling AFP: “There have been no air strikes on the dam.”

BBC producer Riam Dalati confirmed there was no imminent danger to the dam in a thread on Twitter.

Dalati said he’d spoken to a former engineer who said the dam “isn’t in danger of any imminent collapse. Structure still sound.”

CTJF-OIR said the dam was not in imminent danger.

We’ve summarised the latest in this post:

Everything we know about the Tabqa dam, near Raqqa, Syria

The SDF says it captured the Tabqa military airbase.

ANF says the SDF liberated Abu Rashid, a village 1km west of Tabqa airbase

The coalition released information about March 26 airstrikes in the Tabqa area:

Near Tabqah, seven strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units; destroyed two vehicles, a fighting position, and a front-end loader; and damaged two supply routes.

Coalition airstrike report

Overnight

ANF said that SDF fighters liberated two more villages near Tabqa overnight on March 25 – Acel Xerbî and Acel Şerqî. It said the bodies of three IS militants had been recovered and two grenade launchers were captured.

ANHA named the villages al-Acel al-Sharqi and al-Gharbi, adding that three vehicles were captured.

We think the village named al-Ajil on Wikimapia, southeast of the military airport, may be the place in question.

The YPG says Abu Omar al-Almani, a German national and a senior member of IS in the area, has been killed near the dam.

Videos

SDF video of fighters in villages west of Al Tabqa

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNbPR6XCrn0

ANHA video of what it says are nighttime preparations for an attack on the Tabqa Dam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOJSwL9e0nA

March 25

In a statement, the SDF reports clashes between its fighters and Islamic State militants around the dam, and says that, on the southern front, troops are within 6km of the military airport.

Raqqa SL said US Marine artillery targeted the dam area overnight.

The SDF’s Liwa Suqur al Raqqa‎ said on its Facebook page that Taqba military airport has been captured.

ANF said 12 IS members were killed in Misharfa village, near Tabqa, after clashes broke out around 13:30. Misharfa is likely Al-Mushayrifah.

The SDF published a video of forces around Al-Mushayrifah, west of Al Tabqa on March 25:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2efSJ-0BZ8

Video at the North Channel Inlet

SDF video showing fighters and vehicles at the North Channel Inlet at night.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbxZTwXwo5E

ANHA reporting in Kurdish from the Tabqa Dam. Shows use of drones, captured weaponry and ammunition, a leaflet dropped by the coalition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTfB8OKLmPY

March 24

SDF spokesperson Talal Silo told Reuters on March 23 that SDF forces had launched an attack on the Tabqa area, saying the dam, the nearby military airport and Tabqa town were strategically important targets.

He said the airport runway would be repaired, that SDF forces will use it, adding that coalition planes would “benefit from the airport.”

SDF spokesperson Cihan Shekh Ahmed told Reuters that SDF forces had reached the “entrance to the Tabqa dam” early in the day, adding that there were clashes there with Islamic State.

Some social media accounts claimed that the dam had been captured by the SDF, but we believe these reports are premature. We’ve geo-located some images shared on social media below.

The operation to take the dam from the north is running in tandem with operations to the south and west of Tabqa town.

In a statement, the SDF said its forces had captured eight villages to the southwest of Tabqa, killing “dozens of terrorists.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohhLrC1Rji8


Geo-locating photographs shared on Twitter

Geo-locating SDF video

This post originally contained geo-location of images and video shared on social media on March 24. We’ve made a new post for that.

Geo-locating imagery of SDF fighters around the Tabqa dam, Raqqa


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