Kurdish-led forces say they will push on to IS capital

The Trump administration says it will supply the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the YPG is the main component, with heavier weapons ahead of a push on the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the IS group's de facto capital. The advance left no significant IS-held urban settlements between SDF lines and Raqqa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the east. Sandbag fortifications left behind by Islamic State fighters lined the roadside in Tabqa city.Some 25,000 people had been displaced from Tabqa during fighting in recent weeks, staying in informal settlements south of the city, a United Nations refugee agency official in Syria, Roupen Alexandrian, said. Unnerved by the Kurdish advances along the border, Turkey sent troops into Syria previous year to help allied Syrian forces battle IS and block the SDF.

SDF deputy head Qahraman Hassan said his forces would receive "special weapons and armoured vehicles" to enter the city, after U.S. president Donald Trump changed United States policy to allow arms deliveries to the Syrian Kurdish component of the alliance - the People Protection Units, or YPG.

"We don't need any other forces to be our partner", he said.

"They can solve their problems in their own country", he said, in reference to Turkey.

The president added that he hoped the Pentagon would "reverse" its decision to arm the YPG "before I go to America". Ankara said the plan was "unacceptable" and a threat to its national security.

Turkey strongly criticized the United States on its decision to arm Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State (IS) in Syria, a move that comes days before a crucial meeting in Washington between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his American counterpart Donald Trump.

Some Americans have seen the storm clouds appearing on the horizon and are cautioning the USA administration but it seems the Pentagon and its allies think that they can address Turkish security concerns and put Ankara at ease, which is absolute rubbish. He said he had no details about the team's makeup.

Displaced residents had begun to return after Tabqa was captured, he added."And now with the advancement of SDF toward Raqqa, huge short-distance displacement is also taking place and also some displacement toward Tel Samen, north of Raqqa", he said.The SDF called on the people of the area to "organise themselves so they can protect the city and the area themselves".

Warplanes from the US-led coalition have pounded Tabqa and nearby IS positions for weeks as part of the SDF's flagship offensive for Raqa. Their half-hour conversation took place before an worldwide conference on Somalia, and Mattis said he had no doubt the US and Turkey would "work this out with due consideration and significant attention paid to Turkey's security, to NATO's security and the continuing campaign against ISIS".

"The U.S. made that decision because its priority for now is to defeat IS both in Mosul and Raqqa", he said.

In this undated photo released Thursday, May 11, 2017, by Hawar News, the news agency for the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas in Syria, shows fighters from the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, patrolling on a street in Tabqa, northern Syria.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that seven people including 4 children were killed and many others wounded and that "the death toll is expected to rise because there are people with critical injuries".

President Bashar Assad indicated in an interview on Belarus ONT television aired Thursday that the government would not take the summit seriously.

  • Joey Payne