Syrian Kurds, on the offensive, push deeper into ISIL territory
BEIRUT – Reuters
REUTERS PhotoKurdish-led forces advanced June 22 deep into territory in Syria held by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), showing new momentum after they unexpectedly swiftly seized a border crossing from the jihadists last week.
The Kurds, aided by U.S.-led air strikes and smaller Syrian rebel groups, had pushed to within 7 kilometers of Ain Issa, a town 50 kilometers north of Islamic State’s de facto capital Raqqa city, said Redur Xelil, spokesman for the Kurdish forces.
The rapid advance into Raqqa province has defied expectations of a protracted battle between the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) group and ISIL fighters, who waged a four-month battle for the border town of Kobane, where the Kurds finally defeated the jihadists in January.
Raqqa is the main seat of power in Syria for Islamic State, the group also known as ISIS or ISIL, which has proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory it controls in both Syria and Iraq.
The United States has been leading an air campaign against the group in both countries since last year. The Kurds have been the most important partner so far for the U.S.-led campaign in Syria, where Washington has far fewer allies on the ground than in Iraq.
The Kurdish front in northern Syria has been one of the few sources of good news for the global campaign against Islamic State since the jihadists made major advances last month near both Damascus and Baghdad.