ISIS fighters were using the historic Rafiqah Wall as a fighting position and had planted mines and improvised explosive devices at several breaks in the wall, the Central Command (CENTCOM) statement said.
“Coalition forces supported the SDF advance into the most heavily fortified portion of Raqqa by opening two small gaps in the Rafiqah Wall that surrounds the Old City,” CENTCOM said.
The Rafiqah Wall surrounds the Old City of Raqqa in the southeastern part of the city, according to Syrian state media. The wall is approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long, 3.8 meters (12.4 feet) high and 1 meter thick, Syrian state media reported in 2009. The Rafiqah wall is approximately 3 kilometers away from the city center.
“The portions targeted were 25-meter sections and will help preserve the remainder of the overall 2,500-meter wall,” CENTCOM said. CENTCOM and the SDF did not specify which area of the wall was breached.
The US envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, Brett McGurk, said Monday’s operation by the SDF was “a key milestone in campaign to liberate the city” on his official Twitter account.
The SDF launched an offensive to seize Raqqa on June 6. For more than three years, ISIS has used Raqqa as a staging ground for its deadly attacks on the Middle East and further overseas.
Capturing Raqqa would be a major achievement in the battle against ISIS.
The group is running out of places to go. If ISIS is evicted from Raqqa it will lose the last vestige of any “governance” of its so-called caliphate. But it’s not just losing control of territory, it’s also losing the facility to move freely between Syria and Iraq — especially since Iraqi militia seized the key town of Baaj last month.
The coalition hopes that the loss of Raqqa and Mosul will dull ISIS’ appeal to potential recruits.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” General Steve Townsend, the coalition’s commanding general, said.