Heavy US-led strikes as fighters battle ISIS in Syria's Raqqa

Iraqi forces

Kurdish and Arab forces backed by the USA have entered Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa, setting the stage for what could be a months-long campaign to reclaim the militants' largest stronghold in Syria.

Russian Colonel General Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces in Syria, said IS made a deal earlier this month with the Kurdish forces to leave two villages southwest of Raqqa and move toward Palmyra.

“Instead of eliminating terrorists guilty of hundreds and thousands of Syrian civilian deaths, the US-led worldwide coalition alongside with their proxies, Syrian Democratic Forces, collude with IS field commanders, who surrender their positions and sites without resistance and head towards the regions where Syrian government forces actively conduct military operations, ” he said.

"The Syrian Democratic Forces and their Syrian Arab Coalition partners launched the offensive to unseat ISIS from its so-called "capital" of Raqqa", the coalition said in a statement predicting that the offensive would deliver a "decisive blow" to the Islamic State.

Surovikin also noted that the USA was clearly attempting to hamper forces of the Syrian Arab Republic who are undertaking efforts to secure the country's southern border, citing the "absurd assertions" and of Washington, who "vaguely explains" that government forces pose a threat to US -led forces.

The US-led coalition said the drone was downed after it fired at coalition forces near the Al-Tanaf garrison, where anti-IS Syrian rebels are being trained.

Islamic State militants seized the city in January 2014, transforming it into a hub for the group's leadership and its self-described caliphate.

Smoke billows following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa early on June 9, 2018.

"An estimated 40,000 children remain trapped in extremely unsafe conditions in Raqqa".

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 25 overnight airstrikes on Raqqa killed 17 people, including 12 at an internet cafe.

He called on all parties to provide safe passage to those wishing to leave the city.

One leaflet dropped could potentially endanger the lives of civilians following the instructions, telling people to head towards the SDF frontlines which could be a potentially deadly mistake given the likely extreme suspicion and nerves among the fighters.

The activist collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said that in addition to the airstrikes the city was subjected to artillery and missile attacks.

On Thursday, Daesh's Amaq news agency released a video allegedly showing the coalition use of white phosphorus in Raqqa.

The U.S. CENTCOM military command refused to comment on specific allegations but said it uses white phosphorous rounds "in accordance with the law of armed conflict.in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures".

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