Kurdish fighters advance on ISIL-held Raqqa

YPG fighters locked in battle just 50km from ISIL’s de facto capital in northern Syria, sources tell Al Jazeera.

Syrian Kurdish fighters have advanced on the northern city of Raqqa, putting them just 50km away from the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, sources told Al Jazeera.

On Friday, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, closed the main route ISIL allegedly uses to supply Raqqa from Turkey, as US-led coalition fighter jets attacked ISIL positions in the area, witnesses said.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated himself in a gathering of opposition fighters loyal to the YPG in town of Suluk north of Raqqa. Another suicide attack was reported in the Kurdish town of Kobane, according to social media accounts sympathetic to ISIL said.

ISIL claimed responsibility for both attacks. No death toll has been reported.

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Activist Abu Khalil al-Furrat told Al Jazeera that Raqqa’s population was enduring extreme hardship under ISIL rule.

“There are mainstream Syrian opposition groups in the area who are ready to fight ISIL in Raqqa but they need air support. And the coalition doesn’t seem willing to support them. The coalition only supports the Kurds,” al-Furrat said.

Fighting in Tal Abyad

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported ongoing clashes between the YPG and ISIL on Saturday, adding that the US-led coaltion air strikes on ISIL targets killed least nine fighters.

In a separate development, ongoing clashes between the YPG and ISIL left at least ten ISIL fighters killed in the border town of Tal Abyad.

ISIL fighters re-entered Tal Abyad and seized a district from Kurdish forces who pushed them out of the border town two weeks earlier, the observatory said.

Tal Abyad was a crucial ISIL supply hub and stronghold for about a year before Kurdish forces expelled the group.

The YPG, backed by Syrian opposition allies, seized Tal Abyad on June 16, just days after beginning an advance against the town.

The official spokesperson for the YPG, Redor Khalil, told Al Jazeera that at least 200 Western fighters have joined the group in their fight against ISIL. 

Idlib mosque attack

In Idlib province, at least 31 al-Nusra Front fighters were killed in a suicide attack claimed by ISIL inside the al-Salem mosque in the city of Ariha, the observatory reported.

A suicide bomber detonated himself inside the mosque after the evening prayer, killing al-Nusra commanders and civilians, while injuring dozens of others, the activist group added.

Ariha was one of the last government strongholds in Idlib until it was captured by a rebel coalition named the Jaish al-Fateh army in May.

Source: Al Jazeera