(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on Sunday launched an offensive on the ISIS-held Tabqa Airbase in Raqqa countryside, in northeastern Syria, Kurdish media reported.
The SDF troops targeted ISIS positions inside the airbase with heavy artillery shelling, Kurdish ARA News reported.
“The bombardment forced a large number of ISIS militants to evacuate their posts inside the airbase,” SDF officer Habun Osman told ARA News.
The official added that the SDF has taken control of several parts of the Tabqa Airbase.
“The clashes are still ongoing, but soon the airbase will be fully liberated from ISIS terrorists,” Osman said.
The airbase lies 45 kilometers west of Raqqa. Other SDF forces are within 10 kilometers of the city, approaching from the northeast.
In the meantime, hundreds of civilians started to evacuate Raqqa amidst concerns over the stability of the nearby Tabqa Dam.
The SDF launched a multi-pronged offensive behind enemy lines on Wednesday to liberate the Tabqa Dam from ISIS.
Seizing Tabqa’s airbase and dam will give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city. The area is critical to ISIS’s ability to import and harbor foreign fighters, export terror, and is ISIS’s last link to territory west of the Euphrates.
Tabqah Dam has been used as an ISIS headquarters, a prison for high-profile hostages, a training location, and for external terror plotting since ISIS took control of the location in 2013.
This comes as part of the third phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation, aimed at liberating Eastern Raqqa from ISIS militants, launched by the SDF on 4 February.
During the first phase of Euphrates Wrath, which began on November 6, 2016, the SDF liberated roughly 560 km² in Northern Raqqa.
On 10 December, the SDF launched the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath, during which it captured over 2500 km² in Western Raqqa.
The campaign is ultimately aimed at isolating the ISIS radical group in its de facto capital.