Backed force pierces into IS-held Raqa from west

Coalition Strikes Target ISIS in Iraq, Syria, June 8, 2017

On the southwestern outskirts of the city, Sheikh Ahmad said their forces took control of Sibahiya district after engaging in heavy clashes with IS militants.

Russia's Ministry of Defense reported on Friday that pro-government forces circled around US military advisers in eastern Syria to reach the Iraqi border, dealing what could be a major blow to the declared USA mission to defeat Islamic State militants in the desert region.

On Wednesday, an AFP correspondent saw coalition armoured vehicles parked among olive trees in the desert east of Raqa, covered with camouflage fabric.

Talal Sillo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led SDF said Tuesday that the "great battle" had begun.

It is estimated by Washington that 2,500 IS fighters remain in Raqqa.

SDF male and female commanders, dressed in fatigues and sporting colourful printed scarves wrapped around their heads, pored over maps on tablet devices to pinpoint targets.

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Held by IS since 2014, Raqa emerged as a key hub for the jihadists' operations in Syria, neighbouring Iraq, and beyond.

Several hundred thousand civilians still live in the city.

Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently - an anti-IS group - has said conditions in the city are deteriorating, describing continuous bombardment and water and electricity outages.

The "unprecedented" airstrikes targeted the neighborhoods of Mashlab, Haret al-Bado, and Rmaileh, said the report, adding that the number of civilian casualties has not yet been clear but it estimated the deaths at tens.

On Thursday, Daesh's Amaq news agency released a video allegedly showing the coalition use of white phosphorus in Raqqa. He noted that the United Nations reported on 6 June that 163 bodies of murdered Iraqi men, women and children lay on the streets of the Sheer neighbourhood in western Mosul after being shot and killed by ISIS snipers when they desperately tried to flee to safety.

The anti-IS coalition have dropped leaflets on Raqqa, instructing civilians on how to flee the city safely.

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Civilians trapped in Raqa also face the risk of heavy coalition air strikes.

The Observatory said these strikes were carried out by Syria s ally Russian Federation.

He said that Syrian government troops had secured territorial gains in the southern Suwayda province near the Jordanian border, but encountered resistance from the US -led coalition.

No one was hurt in the incident, which occurred near the coalition s At-Tanaf garrison.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said Syrian regime ally Russian Federation helped prevent an escalation in hostilities between the coalition and the pro-regime forces.

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