US-ALLIED Syrian Kurdish militia claimed victory in the former Isis “capital” Raqqa yesterday — but fighting continued in pockets.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — dominated by the Kurdish separatist YPG — said it had taken over the strategic city on Tuesday after a final battle at a football stadium.
SDF spokesman Talal Sillo announced that four months of fighting in the “capital of terrorism” was over.
But Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led Inherent Resolve coalition directing the operation, said pockets of resistance remained and the SDF was combing the city for sleeper cells. “We have not received official reporting to say Raqqa is cleared,” he said.
Clean-up operations were under way yesterday to remove any mines and explosives while hundreds of SDF fighters waving yellow flags entered the city.
The SDF began its offensive to retake Raqqa on June 6. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, more than 900 civilians have been killed since the battle began, including at least 570 in air raids carried out by the US-led international coalition.
Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed he had the right to launch air attacks on Syria — but it was “unacceptable” for Syrian air defences to shoot back.
That followed Monday’s Israeli missile attack on Rif Dimashq province after its aircraft were targeted by missiles when it allegedly violated Syrian airspace.
Ahead of a meeting with visiting Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, Mr Netanyahu repeated claims Syria’s ally Iran was establishing a permanent military presence in Syria, adding: “Israel will not allow this.”