Christian forces fighting to oust ISIS from its declared capital of Raqqa said today that while “hundreds, maybe thousands” of terrorists fled before the Syrian Democratic Forces laid siege to the city, the remaining terrorists have resorted to “dirty tactics” including dropping bombs on their forces from drones.
The Syriac Military Council (MFS), which consists of Assyrian men and women fighting alongside Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and other ethnic groups under the umbrella of the SDF, also warned that the Turkish government and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are trying to stop the SDF’s offensive by attacking the anti-ISIS coalition.
In a video message today, MFS spokesman Kino Gabriel said that the operation to “liberate the so-called caliphate of the Islamic State,” in particular the current Wrath of Euphrates operation to liberate Raqqa and surrounding territory that began in November, is going according to plan.
“The importance of this operation for us is very huge … liberating [Raqqa] would mean another step in the battle to defeat ISIS and to defeat terrorists that have been persecuting the Syrian people and its components for so long,” Gabriel said, noting that ISIS has been attacking different groups including “the Syrian Christians who have been living in different areas like Jazira, like Raqqa, Homs.”
MFS participation is important, he said, “in order to revenge the persecution that Syriac Christians have taken, to revenge the persecution that we see and that people have been living under since 2013 and 2014.”
He also emphasized the role of the Bethnahrin Women’s Protection Forces, “the Syrian women who have taken part in the operation since its first stages” who comprise the women of the MFS.
“There have been several Christian families, living and still living in the city of Raqqa, some of them managed to get out and got the support of the Syriac Military Council and other groups,” Gabriel said, adding that there are “so many civilians” still trapped in Raqqa “that are still living there alongside the few Christian families,” whose status is “currently unknown.” He said the MFS is “taking different measures in order to locate those families and be able to rescue them as the operation and the offensive is continuing.”
The goal is to “completely liberate the city” and allow the civilian administration to take over and “get the people back again to their normal lives and to be able provide the necessary services the people need.”
“Our goal is to completely liberate Raqqa and continue fighting Daesh in the territories under its control,” he said, using the pejorative Arabic name for ISIS.
Gabriel said the MFS and allies “are trying to do our task and kick the terrorism out,” but “so far we have been attempted to stop by different forces like the Turkish state and the Turkish army alongside some Free Syrian Army groups who are affiliated with Turkey and attacking different areas that are controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces.”
“They attempt to stop or slow our operation to reach Raqqa,” he said. “The same thing goes for the Syrian regime supported by its allies, which attempted to slow down and attacked our forces in different locations … military and defensive measures have been taken and several airplanes belonging to the Syrian army have been dropped.”
A month ago, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 that was dropping bombs on SDF positions southwest of Raqqa. The U.S. military said the Syrian regime attack wounded “a number” of SDF fighters.
“Our goal, as we said, is to liberate Syria from the terrorism of Daesh and the different terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and the others,” Gabriel said, and let the Syrian people thrive in “a democratic system that is pluralistic” and gives a voice to all of Syria’s ethnic and religious groups.
“ISIS has been defeated so far inside the city, hundreds maybe thousands of fighters maybe escaped during the first stages of the operation and just before the siege of the city from all sides,” the spokesman continued. “Those who are left, maybe they will be in the thousands, and they are fighting very hard against our forces, mostly using, let’s say, dirty tactics including dropping bombs from drones, snipers, VBIEDS [car bombs], and are using tunnels that have been built under the city to infiltrate our forces. So far, our forces have been able to do the task and stop any attacks from Daesh.”
ISIS released a lengthy video in January unveiling their weaponized drone program. After the Mosul operation began in October, a U.S. general described ISIS’ drones as “commercial, off-the-shelf” unmanned aircraft.
Gabriel noted that they have been able to “liberate several neighborhoods and are continuing our operations to liberate the others.”
“We are sure that our battle is for the good and the righteousness of our cause and we are going to succeed, and we are going to be victorious in this battle and in this operation,” he said.