URFA ــ The Syrian rebel group of Liwaa Thuwar al-Raqqa, a major ally to the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), announced Thursday the northeastern Syrian province of Raqqa –known as the de facto capital of the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS)– a closed military zone.
“The battle for liberating Raqqa has been agreed upon by major forces in northern Syria, and the zero-hour is approaching,” the rebel commander Abu Issa said in a statement on Thursday.
“We declare Raqqa province a military zone, and the zero-hour will be announced soon for liberating the entire province from ISIS terrorists.”
Abu Issa warned people of the province to keep themselves away from ISIS-linked headquarters for their own safety.
The rebel group called on Syrian members of ISIS to “surrender or die”, emphasizing “the battle to liberate Raqqa, which all Syrians and the world aspire for, will be a historic battle”.
Speaking to ARA News in Raqqa suburb, rebel fighter Mohammed Aziz said that large military preparations are underway in the northern countryside of Raqqa “for the great anti-ISIS battle in the province”.
“It is expected that tens of thousands of fighters are prepared for this fight from various rebel factions, including the key Kurdish forces in northern Syria,” Aziz reported.
Syria’s Kurdish forces of the YPG and several Arab rebel groups have formed a new alliance under the banner “Syrian Democratic Forces” to combat ISIS extremists.
In January, the Kurdish forces and allied rebels, supported by the Peshmerga, were able to push ISIS out of the border city of Kobane after four months of heavy fighting.
In June, the same factions liberated the key city of Tel Abyad (Gire Spi) on the border line with Turkey from ISIS, cutting off the group’s main transit route to Raqqa.
Tel Abyad was captured by the Kurdish YPG forces and allied rebels with help from the U.S.-led coalition.
Washington said earlier that it could provide military support to Arab rebel commanders in northern Syria in case they cooperate with the YPG forces.
Despite years of repression by Assad regime, Kurds were able to take up arms and build a strong military force in the Kurdish-populated areas in northern Syria. They were able to establish autonomous governance in Qamishli, Kobane and Afrin.
Reporting by: Jan Nasro
Source: ARA News
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