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US-backed Syrian forces seize dam west of Raqqa from Daesh — SDF

UN human rights office raises concerns about increasing reports of civilian deaths

By Reuters - Jun 05,2017 - Last updated at Jun 05,2017

Syrian Democratic Forces fighters ride on vehicles in the north of Raqqa city, Syria, February 5 (Reuters file photo)

BEIRUT — US-backed Syrian militias said they seized a major dam on the Euphrates River from the Daesh extremists on Sunday, their latest gain as they push towards Raqqa city.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, said they captured the Baath Dam in the morning, renaming it Freedom Dam. The hydroelectric facility lies 22 kilometres upstream of Raqqa, where the Daesh group’s operations in Syria are based. 

The spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia, the SDF’s key component, said fighters were combing nearby villages for mines and shoring up their defensive lines. “The dam has been completely liberated,” Nouri Mahmoud said.

The advance means the SDF now hold all three major dams along the Euphrates, after gaining control of Syria’s largest dam last month. 

With air strikes and special forces from the US-led coalition, the SDF have been encircling Raqqa, which Daesh has used as a hub to plan attacks abroad. 

The operation to storm the city will start in the next “few days”, Mahmoud said on Saturday. The Raqqa assault will pile more pressure on the extremist group’s self-declared “caliphate” as it faces defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul and retreats across much of Syria. 

The Daesh group still controls swathes of Syria’s eastern desert bordering Iraq and most of Deir Ezzor province, which would be its last major foothold in Syria after losing Raqqa. 

The SDF has advanced in recent months to within several kilometres of the centre of Raqqa, facing fierce resistance from Daesh. 

Fighting since late last year has displaced tens of thousands of people, United Nations sources say, with many flooding camps in the area and others stranded in the desert. 

The UN human rights office has raised concerns about increasing reports of civilian deaths as air strikes escalate. The Raqqa campaign has “resulted in massive civilian casualties, displacement, and serious infrastructure destruction” so far, it said in a May report. 

The Daesh militants have also reportedly forbidden civilians from leaving, it added.

 

The United States-led coalition says it is careful to avoid civilian casualties in its bombing runs in Syria and Iraq.

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Comments

We in Turkey are suffering from water shortage while all the water from Firat River is going to Syria to our enemies there.It is time to build more dams on the Turkish side. I don't care what happens in Syria. USA can get water bottles for the Kurds.

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