Syrian army closes in on IS-held town in Raqqa


The southwestern region in Syria bordering Jordan and Israel is mainly under control of rebel groups backed by Western and Arab states.

But the advances are proceeding cautiously, officials say, as Islamic State uses snipers, vehicle bombs and booby traps, and forbids civilians to leave, prolonging the effort to flush the jihadis out.

Also on Wednesday, the SDF killed at least 29 ISIS jihadists and freed 264 civilians from the Nazlat Shehadeh neighbourhood, southern Raqqa, the SDF Media Centre reported. "Daesh is known for it's brutal actions and behavior", he added.

"In the northern area there is no Daesh presence, but at the same time our forces are not getting closer in because Daesh has rigged these areas with enormous amounts of explosives and mines", he said.

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces advance toward Islamic State positions in Seif Al Dawla district of Raqqa, Syria, August 9, 2017.

The 24-page text, prepared by a panel of experts for the Security Council, noted that remittances sent overseas - often in small sums, making them hard to detect - comes as Daesh steps up its global efforts "as demonstrated by the higher pace of attacks in Europe".

Through large open windows in the command post, some barricaded with tables to shield the unit from sniper fire, the ancient mud-brick Old City walls were visible, including one point where the SDF breached them to get through. He believes their morale "is zero".

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"Many of those who have fled the city reportedly hope to return as soon as possible. Those with families tend to be the ones to hand themselves over", he told Reuters.

A handful of civilians have trickled out of the city each day, but most can not leave.

The United Nations has expressed deep concern about the safety and protection of the thousands of civilians in Raqqa city of Syria.

The U.S. coalition and its allies say they take care to avoid civilian casualties, another reason for advancing cautiously.

On 1 August, activists said around 50 people, mostly women and children, were killed in the Bousraya neighbourhood after a coalition bombing raid struck a residential building.

Dillon says the significance is that the SDF, despite IS' best efforts, have successfully battled across the entire city from both sides and have joined forces.

"The conditions on the ground are not what we had imagined, as there are several regions that they have to pass through and each region has its own challenge", he told reporters at the Istana presidential palace. The Syrian government has said the USA forces were committing "crimes" by killing civilians on a daily basis.