The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Arab groups and the Kurdish YPG, said on Friday their attack to capture ISIS’ Syrian bastion Raqqa city would begin in early summer, and the US-led coalition would supply them with arms for the assault.
SDF commander Abdul Qader Hevdeli declined to say when exactly the assault on Raqqa would begin, but said it would be soon.
“I can’t specify exactly, I believe entering and storming the city will happen at the start of the summer,” he said during a news conference in the town of Tabqa, which the SDF captured this week from ISIS jihadists after weeks of battles.
“At the start of entering (Raqqa), of course, as (the US-led coalition) promised us, there will be support in the form of specialized weapons, armored vehicles or others,” he said.
SDF commander Rojda Felat also told AFP that the attack on Raqqa will take place in the beginning of the summer, without giving a more precise date.
The SDF has been waging a campaign to isolate and ultimately capture Raqqa city since November, with backing from the US-led coalition.
While the US-led coalition has already supplied weapons to Arab fighters in the SDF, the White House this week authorized for the first time arming its most powerful element – the Kurdish YPG – to help in the Raqqa assault, infuriating Turkey.
Hevdeli said that weapons the White House has approved for the YPG had yet to arrive. “I believe these weapons or this support will arrive soon,” he said.
His comments came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated Ankara’s criticism of the Trump Administration’s decision to arm the Kurdish fighters.
Four days before he is due in Washington to meet Trump, Erdogan said he did not want to see “a terrorist organization alongside the United States”, and that Turkey would continue military operations against Kurdish militia targets in Iraq and Syria.
The capture of Tabqa and its nearby dam on the Euphrates river marked a major milestone in the SDF campaign against ISIS.
The SDF said in a statement Tabqa would be turned over to a civilian council once fully secured.
It also said the authority that oversees the hydroelectric Tabqa dam would remain “a national Syrian institution that will serve all the regions of Syria without exception”.