Backed SDF have cleared ISIS of more than half of Raqqa, Syria

Backed SDF have cleared ISIS of more than half of Raqqa, Syria

USA -backed Syrian fighters advancing from eastern and western parts of the northern city of Raqqa have linked up for the first time in weeks after launching their offensive against Islamic State group fighters there.

The coalition airstrikes against the Daesh terror group (banned in Russia) destroyed 27 fighting positions and an improvised explosive device (IED) factory near the city of Raqqa in Syria on Wednesday, Operation Inherent Resolve said in a press release.

Separate contingents of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ringing the Islamic State (IS) bastion of Raqqa have converged, dealing another sharp blow to the surrounded militants.

"Despite these fierce and suicidal tactics [of ISIS], the SDF continues to progress", Dillon said.

A small number of Christians lives in Raqqa city, however the majority of them fled when ISIS took over the city and moved to the Kurdish-held Hasakah province.

Gorka denies dismissing Tillerson's role on North Korea
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday appeared to downplay the possibility of armed conflict. In response, North Korea announced it was developing plans for a missile strike against Guam.

Mr Bali said the key difficulty facing advancing SDF fighters was to avoid striking civilians used by ISIL as human shields.

A family of 17 Indonesians, including teenagers and women with infants, are being repatriated from the Syrian city of Raqqa after they escaped from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The two sides are locked in a grinding battle of attrition that ranks among the toughest challenges to date for the anti-Islamic State coalition.

International Organization for Migration spokesman Olivia Headon said the 602,759 returns between January and July were on track to surpass the figure of 685,000 returns for all of 2016.

But she also cautioned about the huge number of displaced Syrians this year - almost 809,000.

A third of the returnees said they went back to "protect their assets" while one-quarter cited "improved economic conditions", the migration agency said.

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