BEIRUT (AP) – The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):
A U.S.-backed Syrian force says it has begun an offensive to capture the northern city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State group.
Talal Sillo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, told reporters Tuesday that operations have begun in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition.
SDF fighters began advancing toward Raqqa in November, capturing wide areas from the extremists. Last week, they reached the northern and eastern gates of the city.
Raqqa is currently surrounded from the east, north and west, and opposition activists have reported intense shelling on the city since Monday night, which killed at least 12 people.
The battle is likely to be long and bloody, and the extremists are not expected to give up easily.
Syria’s state news agency and an opposition monitoring group say airstrikes on the northern city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State group, have killed at least 12 people.
State news agency SANA reported on Tuesday that the airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition killed 12, including women and children. It says the families were fleeing the city in boats across the Euphrates River ahead of an expected all-out attack by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 21 people were killed in the Monday night airstrikes. It said they were likely carried out by the U.S.-led coalition.
The airstrikes have intensified in recent weeks as SDF fighters have reached the outskirts of the city.