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SDF forces seize ‘half of Raqqa’ from IS as civilian death toll mounts Open in fullscreen

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SDF forces seize ‘half of Raqqa’ from IS as civilian death toll mounts

An Arab-Kurdish alliance is conducting an offensive against IS in Raqqa. [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 July, 2017

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A US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters has ousted Islamic State group militants from half of their Syrian bastion in Raqqa, as the civilian death toll mounts.

A US-backed alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters has ousted Islamic State group militants from half of their Syrian bastion in Raqqa, as the escalating fighting drives up the civilian death toll. 

The Syrian Democratic Forces have been pressing an operation to capture the jihadi stronghold since last year, and they penetrated the city in June.

The spokeswoman for the SDF's Raqqa operation told AFP that just under half the city was under SDF control.

"Forty-five percent of Raqqa has been liberated. Our forces are advancing on all sides," Jihan Sheikh Ahmed said late Wednesday. 

"The tighter the noose grows around Daesh (IS), the more strongly it reacts and the tougher it fights," Ahmed said. 

But the fighting has led to further civilian casualties in the city.

A barrage of US-led airstrikes killed at least 29 civilians across Raqqa, with eight children among the dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human rights.

With Wednesday's deadly raids, at least 325 civilians, including 51 children, have died since the SDF penetrated Raqqa less than two months ago, according to the Observatory. 

Another 467 IS militants and 219 SDF have also been killed.

Raqqa after the Islamic State

The Islamic State first seized Raqqa in early 2014, with the city becoming synonymous with the group's most gruesome atrocities, such as public beheadings.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the escalating violence in recent months but up to 50,000 people remain trapped inside the city.

The Raqqa Civil Council is expected to run the city's administrative affairs once the Islamic State is defeated, but much of Raqqa has been left in ruins.

A deputy commander of the international coalition said Sunday it would have "a great deal more" to do in Syria even after Raqqa is captured. 

"Daesh is not defeated with the liberation of Raqqa. The defeat of Daesh was not completed with the liberation of Mosul" in Iraq, British Major General Rupert Jones told reporters, using an Arab acronym for Islamic State.

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