Syrian Kurdish forces to push on IS capital this summer


The capture of a key Syrian town and a nearby dam from Islamic State group militants by Syrian Kurdish-led forces undermines the IS's ability to defend its de facto capital, Raqqa and disrupts its ability to plan attacks in Western countries, the USA -led worldwide coalition said yesterday.

"This victory in Tabqa over ISIL has been a big prize for the SDF", Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Gaziantep, on the Turkish side of the Syria-Turkey border, said.

Claiming that the protection of civilians was the Syrian government's first objective in agreeing to the zones, he added: "The second objective is to give the militants who want reconciliation with the state a chance ... to settle their cases, hand over their weapons in return for amnesty".

Tabqa and the nearby dam, Syria's largest, were seized a day earlier in an offensive that lasted almost seven weeks, with the backing of airstrikes from the global coalition.

At their closest point, the US-backed forces are just eight kilometres (five miles) from the city.

Syrian Kurdish-led forces say they are carrying out mine-clearing operations at the country's largest dam and the nearby town of Tabqa a day after seizing them from Islamic State militants.

Until Tuesday, official U.S. policy was to supply weapons only to the Arab components of the SDF-never to its Kurds.

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Arming the Kurds is the right tack for Trump to take, a decision that for months we have been urging both Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, to make.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it was "out of the question" for Turkey to accept any direct or indirect help for the PKK.

US-backed forces are battling towards Isis' largest remaining stronghold after gaining control of a strategic dam, but questions remain over a deal struck with the terrorist group in exchange for its retreat.

"We are very mindful of the Turkish concerns on this", Davis said. "We wouldn t even know where the shelling was coming from", the mother of five said.

A high-level Turkish delegation including Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and spy chief Hakan Fidan had been in the U.S. laying the groundwork for the meeting. He said he had no details about the team's makeup.

Turkey has said it is keen to join the battle for Raqa on condition the offensive excludes the YPG, which Ankara has targeted with air strikes and artillery. "They can solve their problems in their country", Abdelqader said of Turkey.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said his regime would offer amnesty to rebel fighters based in the recently agreed de-escalation zones on the proviso that they give up their weapons.