A U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters is making headway against Islamic State militants in northeast Syria as a part of a major coalition operation to drive IS out of a strategic town bordering Iraq.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by coalition airstrikes, captured tens of villages and cut off a major IS supply route between Iraq and Syria, according to a VOA reporter on the scene. The move is part of a "Rage of Ash Shaddadi Operation” started Thursday to push jihadists out of the strategic Syrian town.
The SDF fighters told VOA they reached Ash Shaddadi on Friday and now fully control the town.
“We have cut off IS’s supply line between Raqqa and Ash Shaddadi town to prevent IS gangs from moving supplies to Raqqa,” Lewend Ahmed, an SDF fighter, told VOA.
Ash Shaddadi has served as IS’s main supply route between two of its most important strongholds, the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. Control of the town will ultimately isolate Raqqa, IS's de facto capital, Kurdish commanders told VOA.
The SDF fighters argue that the control of the town will also secure Hasakah province, a self-declared Kurdish autonomous canton in northern Syria.
“Ash Shaddadi has its own importance for Cizire canton [Kurdish for Hasakah], because it is the final line where IS could attack the canton,” the SDF commander, Dilsher Qamishlo, told VOA.
The SDF was established in late 2015 as an alliance of some Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters.