Overcoming heavy Islamic State resistance the Syrian Democratic Forces breached the Old City of Raqqah on Monday, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) officials said Tuesday.
According to OIR, coalition forces supported the Syrian Democratic Forces advance into the most heavily fortified portion of Raqqah by opening two small gaps in the Rafiqah Wall that surrounds the Old City.
Islamic State fighters were using the historic wall as a fighting position and planted mines and improvised explosive devices at several of the breaks in the wall. Syrian Democratic Forces fighters would have been channeled through these locations and were extremely vulnerable as they were targeted with vehicle-borne IEDs and indirect fire as well as direct fire from heavy machine guns, rocket- propelled grenades and snipers as they tried to breach the Old City, the OIR said.
Conducting targeted strikes on two small portions of the wall allowed Coalition and partner forces to breach the Old City at a locations of their choosing, denied Islamic State fighters the ability to use pre-positioned mines, IED and VBIEDs, protected Syrian Democratic Forces and civilian lives, and preserved the integrity of the greatest portion of the wall. The portions targeted were 25-meter sections and will help preserve the remainder of the overall 2,500-meter wall.
“Unlike ISIS who deliberately destroyed the ruins of Palmyra and the Al-Nuri mosque and uses sites such as the Rafiqa Wall, hospitals, schools and mosques as weapons storage facilities and fighting positions, Coalition forces are making a great effort to protect civilians and preserve these sites for future generations,” said Coalition Spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon.
“The most humane way to save the people of Raqqah is to swiftly and decisively defeat ISIS, who have terrorized the people of Raqqah for more than three years. Only this way, can the people of Raqqah be saved and city return to peace.”