Middle East News

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

Work continues to remove explosive remnants of war, to rehabilitate the dam and return some of its turbines to power generation.

Note: this post is frequently updated.

Summary

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March 24 We geo-located images showing the SDF captured the north channel inlet

Background

Controversy raged over the condition of the Tabqa dam, near Raqqa in northern Syria. We’ve followed the story in depth since it broke on March 26.

Islamic State claimed that the section of the dam under its control has been damaged by coalition airstrikes and is at risk of collapse. The SDF has said there were no airstrikes on the dam and the coalition has neither confirmed nor denied that it was hit by airstrikes. Drone-shot imagery from both the coalition and IS appear to show the hydroelectric power plant has been damaged.

The dam

Tabqa Dam, west of Raqqa, Syria. Image: Grasswire/Google/DigitalGlobe

There are two parts of the roughly 4km structure that are referred to.

The north channel inlet is controlled by the SDF, and is also called the Al-Rey Channel inlet and the Belikh Channel inlet. This part of the dam allows water to enter an irrigation channel and can be used to relieve water pressure on other parts of the dam system.

The hydroelectric power plant at the southern end of the dam is under Islamic State control and this is the subject of the controversy.

We detail what has been reported in reverse chronological order below.


September 16

The SDF quotes Engineer Ali Al-Rawi, Director General of the Euphrates Dam as saying:

“We are trying with our simple means to repair the damage caused, where two 100-megawatt turbines have been rehabilitated. Two other will be worked in two days.

The main network of electricity destroyed with its towers is being rehabilitated. Demining organizations are being contacted to try cleaning, so that our workshops can work without danger in the whole body of the dam.

The capacity of the dam today after rehabilitation is generate 300 MW will feed the rural areas, and we are working to connect the Euphrates dam with Tishreen dam to distribute electricity equally to the region.


August 16

The International Committee of the Red Cross plans to carry out urgent repairs to the dam, Reuters reported.

ICRC spokeswoman Ingy Sedky said the organisation was discussing maintenance work to pumps and to provide lubrication oil in order to restart water pumping stations. The ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent sent generators some months previously to keep it operating.


August 15

“UNICEF and NES INGOs provided liquid chlorine for the main water treatment station in Tabqa.

Rehabilitation of Tabqa water station will commence soon in collaboration with Water Authority and Ministry of
Water Resources (MoWR).”

Syria Crisis: North East Syria Situation Report No. 14 (1 – 15 August 2017)


July 18

US State Dept demining expert Murf McCloy said a meeting between the START-Forward team and Raqqa Civil Council discussed demining the city, rebuilding bridges and roads, and the the electrical grid, and that work was ongoing in areas recaptured from ISIS, VOA reported on July 24.

“We have got people working here in the Raqqa area, Ayn Issa, Tabqa Dam, as well as the Tabqa town, and Manbij,” he said.


July 3

In response to emailed questions about the dam, a US State Department official said:

“Since the [Tabqa] dam’s liberation, it has been cleared of mines and work is underway to restore its operations to deliver electricity to surrounding areas. Mr. McGurk credited the courage of those who have worked to clear land mines and IEDs left behind by ISIS throughout Tabqa.”

“For security reasons we do not provide details on U.S. implementers in Syria. However, we can say that the sophistication and level of contamination of explosive hazards deliberately placed by ISIS, who adopts a scorched earth strategy, is staggering. Clearing these explosives from critical infrastructure is extremely dangerous and time consuming.”

Asked if repair of the dam was under the auspices of the State Dept mission to Syria, the spokesperson said:

“The START-Forward team is overseeing humanitarian assistance and demining and stabilization efforts; engaging in diplomatic outreach to Syrians, and monitoring U.S. foreign assistance programs in areas cleared of ISIS.”

“While it is not possible to offer a timeframe at this point as the dam experienced significant damage under ISIS control and still requires rehabilitation, local officials have noted that they have sufficient capacity and supplies to complete repairs necessary to maintain dam operations.”

US Envoy Brett McGurk tweets images and video of the dam from his June 29 visit.


July 1

The New York Times and the Washington Post publish articles about the McGurk visit to Tabqa. The NYT piece includes the first image from inside the dam that Grasswire has seen since March 26.

Bullet holes remained in a control panel in the Tabqa Dam. Credit Michael R. Gordon/The New York Times/Fair use

This image may have been taken in the turbine hall at the dam. Screenshots from videos published in 2013 on YouTube show remarkable similarities:

The New York Times report notes:

…Tabqa stands as a laboratory for testing the Trump administration’s policy of empowering commanders in Syria to make battlefield decisions to defeat the militants while relying on a small team of State Department officials and Army civil affairs units to cement the uneasy peace that follows — all without getting into the business of nation-building.

It is also a dry run for the impending capture of Raqqa, a larger, far more densely populated and better defended city.

“Tabqa is the most immediate post-ISIS town where we could really get our feet on the ground,” said Brett H. McGurk, President Trump’s special envoy to the coalition.…

One of the final confrontations occurred inside the 200-foot-tall Tabqa Dam, which used to supply 20 percent of Syria’s electricity.”

To try to save the dam, Syrian fighters cut a deal granting about 70 militants safe passage out of town. But the Islamic State did its best to sabotage the complex anyway: The aging red turbines were blown up while the control panels were sprayed with bullets.

Syrian engineers have been trying to get one or two turbines running by cannibalizing parts from the wreckage. But with no Soviet-era parts on hand, nobody seems to think that the structure will be generating power in the months ahead, and the hazards of working in and around the dam are still significant: Last week, one newly trained Syrian demining expert was killed when he triggered an improvised explosive device.…

The United Nations is active in Syria but has yet to begin any relief efforts in Tabqa, and it has mounted only one effort outside of the areas squarely controlled by the Assad government.

That leaves the United States to serve as a stopgap for the most immediate needs. Nearly 50 tons of flour, paid for by the Pentagon, were trucked in from Iraq to an American-funded warehouse on Wednesday. Another large shipment of American food aid — enough for 30,000 people for 30 days — will be divided among several towns and camps for displaced people in the Raqqa area, including Tabqa.…

The United States is also sending in heavy equipment to move debris and is funding demining efforts.…

The problems run far deeper than that, and it is not clear who, if anyone, will rebuild the town’s collapsed and damaged buildings or fix the turbines inside the dam. But citing the lessons of Iraq, the Trump administration is staying away from nation-building, whether it involves picking local leaders or undertaking major reconstruction programs.…

The Americans said that they were ready to provide desks and chalkboards, but that the Tabqa council should direct requests to the United Nations International Children’s Fund, when the United Nations finally reaches the town.…

“Tabqa is a dry run,” Mr. McGurk said. “There is a lot of work ahead.”

Michael R. Gordon, New York Times

The Washington Post report notes:

At a warehouse near the town center, the first shipment of American food arrived on Wednesday; sacks of flour and rice are stacked on pallets, ready for distribution, and much more is coming in the next week, says veteran U.S. relief coordinator Al Dwyer.…

Despite the Russians’ public protests, they quietly agreed last weekend on a roughly 80-mile “deconfliction” line that stretches from a few miles west of here to a village on the Euphrates called Karama.…

McGurk repeats at every meeting with local officials that the United States’ ability to fix Syria is limited. America can help defeat the Islamic State, and it can provide quick stabilization support to repair water, electricity and other infrastructure. But it can’t do everything.…

David Ignatius, Washington Post


June 29

On June 28 and 29, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk was in Syria. He visited Tabqa on June 29.

State Dept readout on McGurk’s visit (emphasis added):

“Mr. McGurk also visited Tabqa city, liberated from ISIS on May 10. While the city is still digging out from the terror of ISIS and the month-long battle to liberate it, Mr. McGurk met with local leaders coordinating assistance that has begun to flow, such as food deliveries, hygiene kits, relief items, and chlorine to provide safe drinking water.”

“He visited the Tabqa Dam, which ISIS terrorists held for three years as a headquarters and fortress. Since the dam’s liberation, it has been cleared of mines and work is underway to restore its operations to deliver electricity to surrounding areas. Mr. McGurk credited the courage of those who have worked to clear land mines and IEDs left behind by ISIS throughout Tabqa.”

“As we accelerate our campaign and territory is liberated from ISIS, the United States and other Coalition partners are supporting the UN and NGOs who are working to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations, and other actors that are working to establish basic security, re-establish essential services, and restore local economies to stabilize communities and allow Syrians to voluntarily return home. It is critical that we remain closely linked with partners on the ground to coordinate both military and civilian efforts to sustain momentum against ISIS.”


June 23

A State Department official told Grasswire:

“The United States is providing humanitarian and stabilization assistance in Raqqa and other areas liberated from ISIS in Syria. These efforts will be focused on meeting immediate needs through the provision of humanitarian assistance, clearing explosive remnants of war, and the restoration of essential services to enable people to return home and to prevent the return of ISIS. These efforts grew out of a concerted State-USAID-DoD planning process.

U.S. government civilian experts have started working in Syria to carry out these efforts. For the security of our personnel, we will not discuss the size or geographic details of the civilian presence inside Syria or proposed movements.”

A spokesperson for CJTF-OIR told Grasswire: “The Coalition will assist with security.”

Does this mean that the US State Dept will be arranging the repair of the dam?

https://www.grasswirenews.com/2017/06/us-state-dept-providing-humanitarian-assistance-raqqa-idp-numbers-soar/


June 13

In response to questions from Grasswire a spokesperson for UNICEF supplied a statement:

“UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programme in Taqba, Ar-Raqqa,  and across Syria focuses in providing safe drinking water and sanitation to families and children affected by the conflict. In response to the current violence in Raqqa, UNICEF through its partners is trucking daily water to around 120,000 people staying in camps.  Additional UNICEF response include:  setting up toilets and shower units in temporary settlements and camps; regular distribution of hygiene kits, aqua tabs and jerry cans to displaced families fleeing the ongoing fighting. UNICEF has also been providing water disinfectant for water facilities in Ar-Raqqa, including in Taqba, that ensured supply of safe drinking water.”

“The Taqba water station is now operating partially after fighting in the area damaged the facility.  UNICEF is focusing on the repair of the water station. Following an initial assessment completed by the local water board in Raqqa, UNICEF has mobilized resources to undertake electromechanical repairs of the water facility.  Standby generator sets will also be provided to continue operation during power outages.  Due to insecurity, technicians are unable to access the area to repair the damage.  UNICEF and partners stand ready to start the repair work, once safe access is secured.”

“UNICEF is not involved in the repair or any other work linked to the hydro-power plant in the Taqba dam.”

More than 150 workers, engineers and technicians are attempting to repair the turbines in the dam, ANHA reported.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jaYaoOmdlY

ANHA said ISIS destroyed the spillway gates and 8 turbines that could generate 800 megawatts of electric power. The worst damage was to the operation room, which ANHA said the ISIS completely burned.


June 8

The Coalition responded to several questions from Grasswire about the May 17 engineers’ visit:

“Coalition military engineers conducted an initial assessment of Tabqah Dam on 17 May 2017. Findings from the initial onsite inspection suggest no immediate safety concerns.”

“There is no immediate Dam Safety issues with the dam. The trip was limited in scope due to no access to inside the dam and adjacent buildings since they had not been cleared of IEDs and ERW. They initial inspection of the 8 radial spillway gates and the water level from the top of the dam revealed that there were no safety issues.”

Question: Have the engineers returned to the dam since May 17? “No. However, the Coalition continues to monitor the status of the dam with the help of local Syrian engineers.”

“Coalition engineers with varied dam expertise were involved in the initial assessment to address the immediate concern of the dam’s integrity and water levels.”

“The Coalition will continue to monitor the status of the dam with the help of local Syrian dam engineers. The Coalition recognizes that the Tabqah Dam and all the dams in Syria are for the benefit and well-being of the Syrian people.”


June 5

Five images were published of engineers from Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve at the dam with Syrian Democratic Forces on May 17, 2017. According to the captions on the photographs: “Engineers assessed the dam as structurally sound and will continue to monitor water levels.”

The captions also noted that: “Before ISIS used the dam as a prison and a headquarters, the dam provided up to 20 percent of Syria’s electricity and irrigated critical farmland throughout the area..”


May 20

Hammurabi’s Justice News, which is linked to the US-supported Maghawier Al-Thawra faction, publishes video shot on the dam and around the hydro power plant, including an interview with an engineer.

سد الطبقة

English Below. حصري، أول وكالة اخبارية تدخل سد الطبقة، وقبل دخول فريق المهندسيين للتقييم. #أخبار_عدالة_حمورابي تقوم بجولة داخل سد الطبقة، وقمنا بزيارة كافة الأقسام التقنية والادارات داخل السد.يحوي الفيديو أيضاً على لقاء مع أحد مهندسي السد، حيث يقوم بالشرح بشكل كامل عن كامل الجوانب التقنية والحقائق بالأرقام عن سد الفرات.نود أن ننوه الى تقرير سد الطبقة الذي نشرناه عندما كان السد تحت سيطرة داعش، وقد سبب تقريرنا بعض الغضب لعبض الأطراف، حيث أننا دحضنا أكاذيب بروباغندا داعش، وهي ذات البروباغندا التي تبنتها بعض الأطراف، لكن عندما ظهرت الأمور كانت الحقيقة في التقرير الذي نشرناه.Exclusively, as the first news agency to enter the Tabqa Dam, and before the engineer evaluation team. #HammurabisJusticeNews makes a tour into Tabqa Dam, and we have visited the all of the technical parts and departments inside the dam.The footage also includes an interview with an engineer working in the dam describing all of the technical information and facts about the dam.To be noticed that we posted Tabqa Dam report, when it was under ISIS control, our report made some parties angry, because we denied ISIS propaganda, the same propaganda that some parties claim, while the truth shows that our report was the correct.

Posted by ‎أخبار عدالة حمورابي – Hammurabi's Justice News‎ on Saturday, May 20, 2017


May 16

Journalist Mohab Naser publishes video of the spillways at the hydro power plant being opened manually.


May 16

Journalist Mohab Naser publishes video of the dam.


May 13

Al Jazeera publishes video shot on the dam and around the hydro power plant, including an interview with an engineer. According to this translation, he says that four of the gates had burst


May 15

Voice of America interviewed SDF fighters who said they are working to resume hydroelectric production.


May 12

ANHA publishes video shot at the hydro power plant. It appears the video was shot on May 11 or earlier.

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

In a press conference broadcast live from the dam, SDF leaders said they would hand over control of the city to Raqqa Civic Council once military operations have completed, mines have been cleared and the city is safe.


May 11

The Syrian Democratic Forces “forced the surrender” of the Tabqa Dam and the city of Tabqa on May 10, a press release from CJTF-OIR said.

Approximately 70 IS fighters conceded to the SDF’s terms, which included the dismantling of IEDs around the dam, the surrender of heavy weapons, and the forced withdrawal of all remaining fighters from Tabqa city. The Coalition tracked and targeted escaping IS fighters.

The SDF accepted the surrender to protect civilians and the dam infrastructure, the release said.

“This is yet another victory by the SAC and the SDF, our most committed and capable ground force partners in the fight against ISIS who remain hard at work erasing ISIS from the battlefield, liberating their own people and lands,” said the Coalition Spokesman, Col. John Dorrian.

The release states that after defeat in northern Syria, IS moved foreign fighters and external attack planning operations to Tabqa to avoid coalition airstrikes on Raqqa, and the taking of Tabqa disrupts IS ability to plan and execute external attacks against the West.

AFP published video shot at the north channel inlet, possibly showing that journalists are still being held back from crossing the dam.


May 10

YPG, PYD and SDF say Tabqa dam has been captured from Islamic State.

The PYD says Rojda Felat, commander of the Wrath of Euphrates campaign, confirmed that Tabqa city and dam are completely liberated from IS:

The SDF published a statement in Arabic saying the dam was completely liberated. Images in the post do not definitively confirm that the SDF controls the dam.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights says it is not yet known whether the SDF is in complete control of the dam.

Grasswire asked the coalition for confirmation but we were told that they “have nothing to release at this time.”

We have not seen definitive evidence that the dam has been captured, but Liwa Suqour al-Raqqa published two videos which appear to have been shot very close to the dam.

Earlier, YPG leader Polat Can shared an image he said was from the dam, implying it was from the hydro power plant. We can’t confirm this.

Unverified drone footage of the dam


April 25

In response to a question about strikes on the dam, a spokesperson for the Coalition told Grasswire that a strike on the dam on March 23 “targeted ISIS snipers.”


April 24

US Defense Department Spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters at an April 24 press briefing:

“The Tabqa dam is fine. I know that a lot has been made of its health. That has primarily been through ISIS propaganda. The dam itself is fine.”

“The water has been draining off. It is actually lower than normal right now in terms of its water levels.”

“There were some deliberate efforts taken with our strikes to reduce some of the power generating capacity there, specifically because that was power that was being generated to service ISIS-held areas, but the dam itself is fine.”

US Defense Department Spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis

This appears to be the first confirmation that facilities or infrastructure on or around the dam was targeted by coalition strikes. The previous coalition position was laid out by Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of CJTF-OIR on March 28:

“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.”

We believe that when referring to the “Tabqa dam”, the US military specifically means the water-retaining wall.

The Coalition subsequently confirmed this.


April 7

A spokesperson for the US-led coalition told Grasswire there was no flooding near Raqqa and that there was no evidence to indicate reductions in water levels downstream of the city.

The spokesperson said that imagery does not support activists claims that there has been flooding or displacement of people caused by the release of water from the reservoir via the SDF-controlled north channel inlet.

“We are not aware of any flooding or the significant movement of IDPs between the city and the north channel of the Tabqah Dam,” the spokesperson said.

The SDF said on March 31 that more than 7,000 people had been displaced, and have since said that hundreds more leaving their homes every day.

Asked if the opening of the spillways had reduced water levels and pressure on the dam structure, the spokesperson said that CJTF-OIR cannot assess the current water level, and that multiple factors impact the water level.

Grasswire also asked about claimed reductions in water levels in the Euphrates downstream of Raqqa.

“The spillways have not been opened since April 4, but we have no evidence to indicate that there are any issues near Raqqah or Dayr az Zawr,” the spokesperson said.


April 6

Raqqa24 said on Twitter that the city has been without water and electricity for 12 consecutive days.

Grasswire asked the coalition how long it estimated it would take for water and electricity services to be re-established following the recapture of the Tabqa dam hydro power plant?

“Restoration of utilities is a complicated issue with many determining factors that have yet to be discovered or determined. Without knowing the current state of related infrastructure, and not ever being able to know what that will be at an unknown time in the future, it would be impossible to answer that question with credible intelligence.

“The Coalition is focused on liberating the people oppressed by the brutal terror of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. When ISIS is defeated militarily, attention can and will be turned onto restoring the infrastructure that was damaged and interrupted by violent tactics ISIS used.”

Coalition spokesperson, April 6, 2017

Raqqa SL says water is gradually returning to the city.

Expanding later on Facebook, Raqqa SL said the opening of a number of gates at the spillways of the hydro plant meant that river water was reaching the city.

#الرقة_تذبح_بصمت#Raqqa #Syria #ISIS #YPGفتح عدد من بوابات المفيض وتمرير المياه من بحيرة سد الفرات، وقد وصلت مياه النهر إلى مدينة الرقة نتيجة التمرير الحاصل، وعودة مياه الشرب إلى المدينة بشكل تدريجي.

Posted by ‎الرقة تذبح بصمت Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently‎ on Thursday, April 6, 2017

Later again, Raqqa SL published a statement to Facebook that it said was from a group of engineers who worked at the dam.

It said that sources said that technical crews succeeded in opening several flood gates, allowing water to flow into the river and drinking water to be made available in Raqqa city.

The statement emphasised the need to ensure permanent monitoring of water levels at the dam, to maintain the readiness of the equipment and find means to power it.

It also highlighted the need to work on re-equipping the hydroelectric station and to support work to prevent equipment being flooded, recommending the provision of mobile pumps and generators to run them.

It said that technicians needed to enter the station and to inspect it and to work on its rehabilitation, saying that the group is ready to provide the necessary technical support at any time.

#الرقة_تذبح_بصمت#Raqqa #Syria #ISIS #YPGبيان رقم 5مجموعة مهندسي سد الفرات _قبل وقوع الكارثةبعد التأكد من أكثر من مص…

Posted by ‎الرقة تذبح بصمت Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently‎ on Thursday, April 6, 2017


April 5

The SDF published images and video of the hydroelectric power plant section of the dam in an attempt to show it is not damaged.

In a statement, the SDF said that on the morning of April 5, during a patrol near Al Yamamah and Suwaydiya Kabirah, SDF members saw the dam return to normal operation, with water flowing into the reservoir below.

“The gates of the dam were opened this morning to return to work after being stopped by [Islamic State] for a period of time under the pretext that the control room of the dam had been destroyed,” the statement said.

The statement added that recent IS propaganda aimed to establish confusion in the people nearby and to put pressure on the SDF to hamper the military operation aimed at capturing the entire dam structure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtH29-xOYMY

Raqqa SL posted a statement to Facebook which they said was from engineers who worked at the dam. It said that from the apparent video it appeared that the danger of rising water levels in the lake had passed, and that they will confirm the information if possible.

Raqqa24 also said that technicians opened “four large bays from the Euphrates dam.”


April 2

London-based pro-government journalist Moussa Alomar said in a now-deleted tweet that water levels in the Euphrates around Deir al-Zour were much reduced due to the opening of spillways at the north channel inlet to reduce pressure on the hydroelectric power station.

He later posted a tweet which he claimed showed flooding in the al-Rumania area of Raqqa city.


March 31

A spokesperson for the US-led coalition told Grasswire on March 31 that engineers sponsored by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent society who were familiar with the structure checked the Tabqa dam for IS booby traps during the SDF’s four-hour halt in operations on March 27.

Asked to clarify the SDF’s March 27 statement which said engineers “confirmed that the dam has not been damaged,” the coalition spokesperson told Grasswire: “The engineers determined that the dam was not in imminent danger.”

It remains unclear if the engineers assessed the entire 4.5km structure.

When asked about specific bomb types that may have been used, the spokesperson said: “The Coalition does not use large bombs on or near the dam,” adding that they had updated earlier language to be more precise.

EXCLUSIVE Coalition says engineers checked Syria’s Tabqa dam for IS booby traps

We found this video of a tour of the hydroelectric power station – inside and out – published on June 22, 2013:

This complements another tour video published on March 20, 2013:


March 30

Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson Col. Joseph Scrocca dismissed reports of a SARC fatality in the Tabqa area. “The volunteer engineers that went from the Red Crescent…all of them came out of the dam, none of them were killed,” Scrocca told reporters.

Hours later, Syrian Arab Red Crescent says volunteer Firas Al-Hussein was killed on Monday March 27, 2017 in the Tabqa area while on duty, confirming Raqqa SL’s social media post from March 29.

People heading to the safety of SDF-controlled territory near the north channel inlet of the Tabqa dam, near Raqqa, Syria, on March 30, 2017. Image @LizziePhelan/Twitter

Up to 5,000 people fled Islamic State-controlled areas around Tabqa to Suwaydiya Saghirah, a small village in SDF territory just north of the Tabqa dam on March 30. Many images showed people at the SDF-controlled part of the dam.

Activists from Raqqa SL said some people were displaced from al-Yamamah “because of Al Balikh [or Al Rey] canal flood” after spillways were opened on March 29 at the north channel inlet to reduce pressure on the Tabqa dam. They said flooding cut a number of roads.

Journalist Lizzie Phelan posted an image she said was of US artillery strikes on IS positions near the southern end of the dam.

On April 1, the Arab24 news agency published video shot at the north channel inlet on March 30. It should be noted that this is not the turbine area, this is the spillway.


March 29

Technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arabic Red Crescent visited the north channel inlet to repair and open spillways to reduce pressure on the dam.

SARC personnel brought a generator to provide power for that section of the dam, ANF reported. In video published by ANHA, the UNICEF logo is clearly visible on what appears to be a generator. The logo is also visible on two images captured by AFP photographer Delil Soulieman. Grasswire contacted UNICEF, but they were unable to able to confirm any information regarding the equipment.

Work was halted after the engineers came under attack from Islamic State mortar fire from the southern end of the dam. At least two explosions were heard but there were no casualties. ANHA reported that mortars were used.

An SDF media official said repairs continued after the shelling stopped and the spillways were now functioning normally, Reuters reported.

Journalist Mohammed Hassed posted images of the north channel inlet. Among them was a picture of a drone that ANF said was shot down by SDF fighters.

https://twitter.com/AriMuradNew/status/847109982566957057

ANHA published video of water flowing into the north channel after engineers opened spillways. Update: The video was later deleted.

ANHA also published a longer video of the day’s eventsUpdate: The video was later deleted.

Raqqa posted an image of Firas al-Hussein, a Syrian Arab Red Cross worker it said was killed on March 27 alongside Ahmed Al Hussein, the head technician for the dam.


March 28

AFP journalist Delil Souleiman reporting from the dam wrote that a source said technicians needed more time to carry out inspections and repairs.

“It will take two or three days to assess and repair the damage, which was a result of the bombardment of the electrical distribution room,” the source said, adding: “The teams will try to find alternatives to the power station to make the dam functional again.”

Later, AFP reported that a correspondent saw technicians accompanied by Syrian Arab Red Crescent personnel examining the dam.

Reuters photojournalist Rodî Saîd published images of this inspection.

Saîd wrote that technicians opened spillways to ease pressure on the dam. According to Saîd, they arrived from the dam’s northern entrance.

The BBC’s Riam Dalati tweeted that other Tabqa engineers confirmed the person pictured at the north channel inlet is a ‘long-serving’ engineer.

On March 29, Smart News Agency published video shot on March 28 of the engineers and technicians at the north channel inlet:

The images only show technicians and SARC personnel at the north channel inlet controlled by the SDF, not at the southern part of the dam controlled by IS where the hydroelectric turbines are located, the part of the dam the controversy relates to.

We cannot say, however, that the turbine area was not inspected.

France 24 posted an interview with Rojda Felat, commander of the SDF’s Wrath of Euphrates operation to liberate Raqqa

“We’ve used every means to protect the dam, and we continue to work on that, Felat said. “Everything that has been said about the destruction of the dam is just false propaganda.

“There were bombardments of IS positions on the dam, but with light weapons so as not to cause damage to it,” she added.

Images of the body of Ahmed Al Hussein, the head technician for the dam who spoke in the video released by Amaq on March 26, were widely shared on social media. Raqqa SL, Raqqa24, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Islamic State claimed that he was killed on March 27 while in the area of the hydroelectric plant assessing earlier damage. This was the day that the SDF said it had paused its assault.

There were also claims that others had been killed, including the previous director of SARC in the Tabqa area.

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 coalition has taken every precaution to ensure the integrity of Tabqa Dam.

“I’ve seen a lot of crazy reporting in the media about Tabqa Dam in the last few days. We don’t access 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.”


March 27

Syrian Democratic Forces spokesperson Cihan Shekh Ahmed said in a March 27 statement that engineers had inspected the Tabqa dam and confirmed it is undamaged, adding that the ceasefire in the dam area is over.

“There is no damage to the dam or its function, the engineers have finished their work and confirmed that the dam has not been damaged, and on this basis the ceasefire ended,” Ahmed said.

Earlier the SDF said it paused operations around dam for four hours to allow engineers to enter the structure and assess any damage.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said technicians from Tabqa did not reach the dam during the ceasefire, Al Jazeera reported.

Raqqa24, a news service on the ground in Raqqa province also said that engineers had not inspected the dam.

Both SOHR and Raqqa24 may have the same sources.

Jake Godin posted images from a YouTube video which appear to match those in the Amaq images of the control room.

Aldin Abazovic has been analsying recent imagery from the coalition, Amaq and from publicly available satellite photographs and concludes that the hydroelectric power generation plant at the southern end of the dam has indeed been hit in an airstrike. We cannot verify his findings, but they are compelling.


March 26

On March 26, Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military operation against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, said in a statement there is no imminent danger to the dam, unless IS plans to destroy it.

It said that, to its knowledge, the structure has not been damaged, and released images of the hydroelectric power generation section captured by drone marked March 26.

Drone image of the Tabqa dam, near Raqqa, Syria, March 26, 2017. Image: CJTF/OIR/Facebook
Drone image of the Tabqa dam, near Raqqa, Syria, March 26, 2017. Image: CJTF/OIR/Facebook

The statement said the coalition “does not target the dam with strikes and when we strike military targets in the vicinity of the dam we do not use high explosive munitions so as not to cause unnecessary damage to the dam.”

“The SDF are in control of a spillway north of the dam that provides water to an irrigation reclamation canal which can be used to alleviate pressure on the dam if need be,” the statement continued.

A spokesperson for the Coalition told Grasswire: “The SDF has a robust plan in place to care for the dam post liberation from ISIS that will work through the resources of the United Nations and subject matter experts on dam engineering. ”

SDF spokesperson Talal Silo insisted there was no imminent danger to the dam, telling AFP on March 26: “There have been no air strikes on the dam.

The director of the Syrian government’s General Authority of Euphrates Dam that formerly operated the facility told Reuters that US strikes in the past two days disrupted internal control systems and put the dam out of service.

“Before the latest strikes by the Americans, the dam was working. Two days ago, the dam was functioning normally,” Nejm Saleh said.

ANHA news agency published a video of a nighttime operation at the dam. Explosions which appear to be near the hydroelectric power station can be seen near the end of the video, but we cannot say what caused these explosions.

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

Amaq posted a video which it said showed damage to the dam control room and structure.

Screenshot from an Amaq video which it says shows damage to the control room at the Tabqa dam. Image: Twitter
Screenshot from an Amaq video which it says shows damage to Tabqa dam structure. Image: Twitter
Screenshot from an Amaq video which it says shows damage to Tabqa dam structure. Image: Twitter

Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins shared satellite imagery of the dam area from March 23 which he said may show that the water management centre had previously been heavily damaged.

First things first
The statements came after Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said that the Euphrates (Tabqa) dam was near to collapse due to recent airstrikes and artillery bombardment. Amaq said the electrical power systems were no longer functional, rendering the dam out of service. Amaq added that water levels were rising.

Raqqa24 refuted claims of an airstrike, and said the damage was to an electrical power distribution system to the west of the main hydroelectric power generation facility.

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

“The work needed to fix the problem is not possible because there is not sufficient staff available as a result of the intensive shelling in the area of the dam,” he said, adding “If the problem is not fixed, it will begin to pose a danger to the dam.”

Also on March 26, 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.”

The unnamed engineer said the dam is around 1.5m (5 feet) from maximum capacity, and it would take up to 40 days to overflow. He said the dam could not be structurally damaged by airstrikes or artillery cant damage structure, but that the real danger is power outage.

The electrical substation and power station have been damaged, but diesel generators can temporarily power the facility, he said.

The engineer suggested that Turkey could reduce water flow in the Euphrates to reduce pressure on the dam structure. He said that for now, flood gates can be operated mechanically but it’s a temporary solution, adding that a flood from the dam could submerge Raqqa city in 30 minutes.

Both sides targeting the dam?

Raqqa SL said on March 26 that US Marine artillery targeted the dam area overnight, but Grasswire has not confirmed this. Both ANF and ANHA said reports suggested IS was shelling the the Tabqa Dam area, but they may be citing each other.

Broadcasts in Raqqa?

Raqqa SL said that IS members were driving around Raqqa broadcasting over loudspeakers that the Euphrates (Tabqa) Dam will collapse and that people should leave the city

Raqqa 24 said exactly the opposite.


Ongoing coverage of military operations around Tabqa

SDF continues assault on Tabqa area near Raqqa, Syria

Geolocating imagery

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

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