US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have reportedly entered the city of Raqqa – the de factor capital of self-styled Islamic State.
The operation which began on Monday appears to have gained ground after forces began advancing on several fronts.
The jihadists captured the city in 2014 and has used it as a base to plan attacks in the West.
An SDF spokesman said “We have begun a new phase [in our fight] to liberate the city of Raqqa. Our forces have now entered the Mashlab neighbourhood, and we are continuing to advance until this moment. In general our forces are in control of the situation, they are advancing and are well prepared.”
But recently increased US support in the form of arms to the Kurdish militias or YPG which dominate the SDF has riled Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Backing terrorist organisations that murder civilians, carry out ethnic cleansing and heap pressure on everyone who has different opinions, literally forces us to live on a bomb whose safety pin has been removed.”
Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK which is fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey.