US-backed forces liberate two more villages in the Operation Wrath of Euphrates

A SDF fighter observes ISIS movements in northern Raqqa

RAQQA (NRT) – Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have liberated two more villages during the third phase of the Operation Wrath of Euphrates to isolate the ISIS-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa.

The villages of Al-Ferer and Sabahul Xeyr, which lie on the Mekmum-Raqqa road, were secured from the control of ISIS on Monday (February 20).

Sabahul Xeyr was a strategically important defense line for the militants, Firat News Agency reported.

The control of the two villages, on what is regarded as the third front in the advance on ISIS-held Raqqa, means SDF fighters have advanced 20 kilometers on this front since the beginning of the third phase of the Raqqa operation.

The SDF launched the third phase of the operation on February 4, to liberate Raqqa from ISIS occupation with the aim of encircling the entire city.

While progress during the third phase has been rapid, some fierce clashes have broken out north of Raqqa as ISIS militants looked to stem the SDF’s advance.

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said ISIS leaders and bureaucrats are leaving their self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria, and seeking a new bastion in the face of a U.S.-backed offensive to isolate the city.

“A lot of their administrators and bureaucrats now are beginning the process of leaving Raqqa and moving their operations further down river,” Davis said on Friday (February 17), speaking to reporters.

“So they have definitely taken note of the fact that the end is near in Raqqa and we are seeing now an exodus of their leadership,” Davis added, referring to the withdrawal as “very organized, orderly.”

The SDF, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters who have been successfully fighting ISIS in northern Syria, has been steadily moving in on the jihadists group’s de-facto Syrian capital of Raqqa for the past three months.

The SDF, backed by coalition forces, have liberated more than 3,500 square kilometers from ISIS since the operation began to isolate the ISIS-stronghold on November 5, 2016.