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US combat airlift marks deepening involvement in Syria
WASHINGTON – The United States is deepening its involvement in the war against the Islamic State group after an unprecedented American airlift of Arab and Kurdish fighters to the front lines in northern Syria, supported by the first use of U.S. attack helicopters and artillery in the country. In addition to using helicopters to ferry rebels into combat near the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, the U.S. also flew two Apache gunships and fired Marine 155mm artillery.
French defense chief: Battle for Syria's Raqqa within days
"Today we can say that Raqqa is encircled and that the battle will begin in the coming days. It will be a very hard battle but it will be an essential battle."
How Tabqa Dam collapse could snatch ISIS's defeat from jaws of victory
the dam is under strain and ISIS are claiming that it is on the verge of collapsing, reporting that all the equipment is down. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights conflict monitor and the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently activist group both reported on Sunday that ISIS is already ordering an evacuation of Raqqa. The United Nations warned in February that a breach in the dam would have fatal consequences for those downstream.
The UN report said that heavy rain and snowfall in late January coupled with ISIS's opening of three of the dam's turbines resulted in flooding. Also, US airstrikes damaged its entrance in January. ISIS are, predictably, blaming the airstrikes completely for the severe strain the dam is reportedly under at present.
“As per local experts, any further rise of the water level would submerge huge swaths of agricultural land along the river and could potentially damage the Tabqa Dam, which would have catastrophic humanitarian implications in all areas downstream,” the report said.
BREAKING: Kurdish forces liberate Tabqa Airbase in Raqqa province
DAMASCUS, SYRIA (10:20 P.M.) – Moments ago, the Kurdish-led ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) managed to wrestle full control over Tabqa Airbase after a 24-hour long battle with ISIS insurgents.
An Arab contingent of the SDF reported the airbase fully liberated yesterday; however, clashes persisted at Tabqa Airbase throughout Sunday before the Islamic State finally pulled the plug, withdrawing its forces northwards to Tabqa city.
In addition, the US-backed SDF also liberated the desert village of Abu Rashid, roughly one kilometer west of Tabqa Airbase.
Kurdish forces are now set to encircle Tabqa city with overwhelming US air support. Meanwhile, ISIS claims US sorties are on the verge of destroying the adjacent Tabqa Dam.