It was a long time coming but the battle for Raqqa has begun.
For those not in the know, Raqqa is Daesh's (IS) capital in Syria. The city was taken by Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra Front and some factions from the FSA in March 2013 but fell into Daesh hands in January 2014.
US Secretary of State Ash Carter welcomes the announcement that Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will be spearheading the advance called 'Wrath of the Euphrates' or 'Ghadab al Firat.' Special US envoy Brett McGurk said the best way to tackle the city would be with a force that are predominantly from the region. SDF, like in the recent Manbij operation, has a sizeable amount of Arabs so are the best for the job. Air support will come from the Yanks, the Brits and the French.
Factions taking place in the operation are YPG, YPJ, Raqqa Falcons Brigade, Liberation Brigade, Raqqa Martyrs Brigade, Hamam Turkmen Martyrs Brigade, Ahrar Al Raqqa Brigade, Tal Abyad Revolutionaries, Syriac Military Council as well as a select number of US Special Forces on the ground.
The operation is being led by a woman from YPG - Rojda Felat. I was very close to her brother in my time in Syria, another hero so I'm feeling confident that the operation is in good hands. Herself and spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Hassan have vowed to avenge women's enslavement under IS rule.
Several videos are circling the internet showing SDF prepare for the op. As usual, moral is very high with several céilis breaking out pre-battle, which is the tradition. So far 5 villages have been liberated at an advance of 10km.
Just like in the Manbij operation things are expected to get ugly. The Kurdish Red Crescent / Heyva Sor A Kurd, our partner organization on the ground, are preparing for the onslaught ahead. There will be heavy casualties on both sides as well as civilians so KRC need all the help they can get in the coming months. Our latest Just Giving campaign aims to put 2 new ambulances on the road. We were hoping to achieve this by Christmas but the lads could really do with this happening ASAP so if you can donate anything towards this please hit the link below:
That's all for now, please keep an eye on our website and FB page for regular updates on the plot. Also check a FB page run by old friends of mine which will bring hourly vibes on the situation in English. 'Campaign Of Liberating Al Raqqa'
I wish all my colleagues, friends and casual acquaintances in Rojava the best of luck and success in the coming months.