Some eight months after starting the military offensive late last year, officials with the Kurdish YPG today announced that they are officially starting the invasion of the ISIS capital city of Raqqa, claiming some of their fighters had already entered through the eastern gate.
The offensive around Raqqa started north of the city, supposedly with the intention of fully surrounding it before the invasion began. At this point, however, ISIS still has avenues leading out of the city, primarily toward the city of Palmyra.
What this means to people inside Raqqa could be very serious, with Red Cross officials warning Raqqa civilians face mines, snipers, and being used as human shields while trapped in the city. Obviously they also risk falling victim to invading forces and US airstrikes, as the US has inflicted considerable casualties around the outskirts of Raqqa in recent months.
The last big city fully controlled by ISIS, Raqqa’s status as their capital city also means they’ve got substantial defensive forces positioned in the city, anticipating an invasion that the US has been telegraphing since the middle of last year. Though the YPG has been effective fighting smaller ISIS targets,, Raqqa will be a huge test for them.
Turkey may also be a challenge for the Raqqa offensive, as they’ve made no secret of their opposition to the use of Kurdish forces in the invasion of the ISIS capital, and their prime minister today reiterated that they “won’t hesitate to retaliate” if they think the Kurds pose a threat, which they almost always do.