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The New Arab

Syrian regime and Kurds race to capture Raqqa dam

Regime forces are battling IS fighters in Raqqa province [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 June, 2016

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Moscow, Damascus and Washington appear to be cooperating on the battlefield, as Syrian regime and Kurdish forces launch a pincer movement on IS - allowing pro-Damascus fighters to enter Raqqa.

Syrian regime fighters have advanced into the Islamic State group-held Raqqa province after a series of victories against the jihadi force.

Troops and militias loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad have won a rare victory for regime forces against IS, after suffering setbacks in Homs province in recent weeks.

Russian air raids - which appear to be in coordination with the US - pounded IS positions allowing regime fighters to advance.

Around 26 IS militants and nine regime troops were killed in clashes, which led to the Damascus government's advance into Raqqa province.

"Regime troops backed by Russian air strikes and Russian-trained militia entered Raqqa province on Saturday morning," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"It seems there has been an undeclared coordination between Washington and Moscow," he added.

Collaboration between the US and Russia - and thus, indirectly, the Syrian regime - appears to be in play due to the joint campaign of Washington-backed Kurdish forces in Raqqa province.

The Syrian Democratic Forces - backed by US air power -have won a series of victories against IS, which has seen them move closer to the militant group's self-declared capital, Raqqa.

The Kurdish majority force has also been fighting in Manjib close to the Turkish border. Foreign fighters have used this post as an entrance point into IS' Syrian territories, and it is also believed to be an important logistics route for the group.

Syrian Democratic Forces took four villages on Friday, as they make their way to IS-held city of Manjib.

Advances have also been made towards the Tabqa Dam, which lies around 25 miles upstream from Raqqa city.

It appears that the regime and US-backed forces both have this in their sights, which IS won from Damascus in 2014, leading to the mass killing of government soldiers.

Meanwhile US-led coalition war planes are continuing to target IS forces in Iraq and Syria, aiding an Iraqi army offensive in Fallujah.

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman has begun launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group from the Mediterranean Sea.

This means that the US Navy can now target its Middle East adverseries from two fronts - from the Mediterranean and more routinely from carriers in the Persian Gulf.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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