Northern Raqqa offensive (November 2016)

Northern Raqqa offensive (November 2016)
Part of the Syrian Civil War,
the Syrian Kurdish–Islamist conflict (2013–present), and
the American-led intervention in Syria
Date6 November 2016 – present
(4 weeks and 1 day)
LocationRaqqa Governorate, Syria


  • SDF capture 48 villages and farms, two water and power stations[1]
SDF capture 560km² of land from ISIL control[2]

Syrian Democratic Forces

 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Commanders and leaders

Rojda Felat[3]
(YPJ commander)[4]
Diljin Kobani[5]
(YPJ commander)
Kino Gabriel[6]
(MFS commander)
Syrian opposition Fayad Ghanim[7]
(Raqqa Hawks Brigade commander)
Syrian opposition Abu Saleh al-Hindawi[8]
(Raqqa Hawks Brigade commander)

Bandar al-Humaydi[6]
(Al-Sanadid Forces military chief commander)
Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi [9]
(ISIL commander of Middle East external networks)
Units involved

Syrian Democratic Forces

United States United States Armed Forces

Military of ISIL


  • 2,000 Al-Sanadid fighters[17]
Unknown number of Raqqa garrison fighters
200 reinforcements[18]
Casualties and losses

26–32 killed
United States 1 killed[24]

198 killed, 15 armored vehicles lost (ISIL claim)[25]
185 killed[23]
30+ civilians killed[26][27]
5,000+ displaced[28]

The northern Raqqa offensive, codenamed operation Wrath of Euphrates, is an ongoing military operation launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Raqqa Governorate, with the goal of capturing the de facto ISIL capital city of Raqqa. The offensive is concurrent with the anti-ISIL offensive and battle for al-Bab near Aleppo, and battle for Mosul in Iraq.


In late October 2016, the United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called for an offensive on Raqqa to be concurrent with the Battle of Mosul in Iraq. He stated that the US is cooperating with its allies in order to launch an "isolation operation" around Raqqa. On 26 October, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the President of the United States Barack Obama and stated that he did not want the People's Protection Units (YPG) to participate in the planned operation, and instead planned to involve the Turkish Armed Forces. The United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon rejected the idea of non-Arab forces taking part in the offensive and demanded a purely Arab force.[29]

On the same day, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend stressed that the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces is the only armed group capable of capturing Raqqa in the near future. Fewer US-led coalition troops will be involved than in the Battle of Mosul.[30] On 3 November, the commander of the Seljuk Brigade and the SDF spokesman Col. Talal Silo rejected the participation of Turkey in the operation.[31]


The SDF officially announced the start of the operation on 6 November in the village of Ayn Issa.[32] The intention was to proceed in two phases, first seizing areas around Raqqa and isolating the city, advancing from three fronts, then taking control of the city itself.[33] The SDF general command called for the international coalition against ISIL to support the operation.[34] In response, Ash Carter welcomed the announcement and emphasized the importance of capturing Raqqa and defeating ISIL, while cautioning that "there is hard work ahead".[35]

The offensive

First phase: Isolating Raqqa from its northern hinterland

On 6 November, the SDF captured six small villages,[15] including the villages of Wahid, Umm Safa, Wasita, Haran, al-Adriyah and Jurah south and southeast of Ayn Issa.[36] IS detonated four car bombs on the first day of the offensive.[5]

On 8 November, the SDF reported that they had taken control of 11 villages near Ain Issa. The SDF also claimed that IS had used several car bombs against their forces.[37] By 11 November, the SDF had captured over a dozen villages and the strategically significant town of Al-Hisbah, which had served as a local headquarters and command center for ISIL.[38] On the next day, the SDF continued to advance against ISIL in the area around Tal Saman and Khnez, bringing the number of captured farms and villages to 26.[39]

As of 14 November, the SDF reported the completion of the initial phase of the operations, stating that 50 km2 has been captured: 34 villages, 31 hamlets and seven strategic hills, along with 167 Islamic State casualties.[6] The SDF had also begun to besiege Tal Saman, the largest village and ISIL headquarters north of Raqqa,[40] while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Salok in the eastern countryside of Al-Raqqah Governorate in order to force the SDF to split its forces and open a new front.[41] On the next day, the SDF advanced into Tal Saman, resulting in a fierce battle with its ISIL defenders.[42] At the same time, the SDF also captured 10 more villages and farms.[43][44] By 19 November, the SDF had fully captured Tal Saman and had driven ISIL completely from the surrounding countryside.[45][46] With this, the first phase of the offensive was considered completed.[47]

Second phase: Attempt at blockading Raqqa

Stalemate and preparation

The second phase of the offensive aims to enforce a full blockade of the city of Raqqa.[47] On 21 November, the SDF captured two more villages,[48] while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Tal Saman.[49] Over the next days, the SDF attempted to further advance, such as at al-Qalita,[50] but was unable to break through ISIL's defense line south of Tal Saman.[51] On 24 November, a US serviceman died from wounds he suffered when stepping on an improvised explosive device near the town of Ayn Issa, north of Raqqa.[52]

On 25 November, ISIL received reinforcements from Iraq, among them explosive experts and defected Iraqi Army personnel.[53] On the next day, ISIL launched a counter-attack, retaking parts of Qaltah village and a nearby Water Pump Station, while the SDF managed to advance in the village's vicinity.[54][55]

On 27 November, the SDF announced the offensive's second phase was due to start.[56]

Civil administration of SDF captured territory

On 14 November, the SDF's civilian sister institution, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), started working on the establishment of a civilian administration to run the city of Raqqa after the expulsion of Islamic State. SDC co-chair Îlham Ehmed was quoted saying that "such an administration could provide a good example for democratic change in Raqqa, especially that the city has been for years a de facto capital for the ISIS terrorist group. This accomplishment would be a major change in the overall situation in Syria, and would help the country move towards stability, democratic change. Raqqa will be an example for the whole country."[57]

See also


  1. قوات سوريا الديمقراطية تحرز تقدماً جديداً وترفع إلى 48 عدد القرى والمزارع المسيطر عليها
  2. "Kurdish Fighters Seize over 550 sq/km of Raqqa from ISIL".
  3. "SDF commander: The Ayn Issa front advanced to Raqqa by 10km". Hawar News. 6 November 2016.
  4. Alexandra Sims (29 May 2016). "Rojda Felat: The feminist taking on Isis". Indepedent.
  5. 1 2 "Morale is high among anti-Islamic State fighters marching on Raqqa". MiddleEastEye. 6 November 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 4 "550 km2 liberated, Wrath of Euphrates reveals outcomes". Hawar News. 14 November 2016.
  7. "A military commander" we will besiege gangs on all sides"". Hawar News. 7 November 2016.
  8. "Wrath of Euphrates fighters head for al-Sokeri". Hawar News. 20 November 2016.
  9. Thomas Joscelyn (17 November 2016). "US-led coalition killed emir of Islamic State's 'Middle East external networks'". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Who is taking part in Ghadab al-Firat campaign? - ANHA". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  11. 1 2 "SDF marching on Raqqa is mix of ethnicities, religions, genders". Rudaw. 7 November 2016.
  12. 1 2 "Syrian Rebellion Obs on Twitter". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  13. Syria_Rebel_Obs (6 November 2016). "EXCLUSIVE SRO - Former leader of the main #Tabqa #FSA factions, Liwa Owais al-Qarni, entered Northern Federation days ago" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  14. "More US special forces for Raqqa than Manbij: monitor". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  15. 1 2 Tomson, Chris (6 November 2016). "Kurdish forces capture first batch of villages from ISIS in campaign to liberate Raqqa". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  16. 30,000 militants to isolate Raqqa city from its northern countryside
  17. "Al-Sanadid Forces join the Operation Wrath of Euphrates". ANF News. 14 November 2016.
  18. "In the first response from the leadership to "the Military Amir of Raqqah", about 200 Syrian fighters arrive from Iraq to Raqqah". SOHR. 25 November 2016.
  19. "SDF advance 12km towards Raqqa". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  20. Tomson, Chris (6 November 2016). "Syrian Democratic Forces advance on ISIS capital of Raqqa despite heavy casualties". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  21. قوات “درع الفرات” تتقدم في 6 قرى و8 مقاتلين من قوات سوريا الديمقراطية قضوا في ريف حلب الشمالي
  22. 'Intense' fighting in Mosul as civilians flee
  23. 1 2 Five Kurdish fighters killed by ISIS fire north Raqqa
  24. US service member killed in blast in Syria
  25. "ISIS claims 198 Kurdish fighters killed in northern Raqqa".
  26. "Syria conflict: Coalition strike 'kills 20 civilians near Raqqa'". BBC. 9 November 2016.
  27. "U.S.-led airstrikes kill 10 civilians in Syria's al-Raqqah".
  28. "5,000 displaced since start of Raqqa offensive: SDF".
  29. "Allies Resist US Plan to Attack Raqqa". Voice of America. 28 October 2016.
  30. "Raqqa Fight Starting 'Soon,' Isolation Operation to Include YPG". Voice of America. 27 October 2016.
  31. "Syria's U.S.-backed SDF says no to Turkish role in Raqqa operation". Reuters. 3 November 2016.
  32. "US-backed Syrian forces begin Raqqa offensive". Al-Arabiya. 6 November 2016.
  33. "US-backed forces launch bid to capture IS Syria 'capital'". Al Monitor. 6 November 2016.
  34. General Command of the Democratic Forces of Syria (SDF) (6 November 2016). "Democratic Forces of Syria launch Operation Wrath of Euphrates to liberate Raqqa".
  35. "Statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Raqqa". U.S. Department of Defense. 6 November 2016.
  36. "Kurdish forces capture first batch of villages from ISIS in campaign to liberate Raqqa". Almasdar News. 6 November 2016.
  38. Tomson, Chris (11 November 2016). "Syrian Democratic Forces overrun ISIS bastion north of Raqqa". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  39. "Continued clashes in Raqqa countryside". SOHR. 12 November 2016.
  40. "Continued clashes and SDF advance in 33 villages". SOHR. 14 November 2016.
  41. "IS attacks SDF in Raqqa countryside". SOHR. 14 November 2016.
  42. Chris Tomson (16 November 2016). "Kurdish forces capture another village in push towards Raqqa city". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  43. "An explosion in Tal Abyad town and clashes in the vicinity of Tal al-Samn". SOHR. 15 November 2016.
  44. "YPG sdf us forces New advancement in about 10 areas in the countryside of Al-Raqqah within the operation of isolating the city from its countryside". SOHR. 15 November 2016.
  45. "Controlling Tal al-Samn area north of Al-Raqqah raises the number of areas controlled by The Syria Democratic Forces of "Euphrates Wrath" to 47". SOHR. 19 November 2016.
  46. "SDF fighters completely liberate Tal Saman". Hawar News. 19 November 2016.
  47. 1 2 "Raqqa will mark Islamic State's downfall". Asia Times. 20 November 2016.
  48. "The Syria Democratic Forces raise the number of villages and farms controlled to 48, Coalition bombards north of Al-Raqqah". SOHR. 21 November 2016.
  49. "School students demonstrate against imposing Kurdish books in Hasakah". SOHR. 21 November 2016.
  50. "Continued clashes between IS and SDF in Raqqa". SOHR. 23 November 2016.
  51. Chris Tomson (24 November 2016). "BREAKING: US soldier dies due to ISIS booby trap in northern Syria". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  52. "U.S. soldier fighting ISIS is killed in northern Syria after stepping on an explosive near Raqqa".
  53. "200 ISIS members arrive to Syria's Raqqa: rights group".
  54. "Violent clashes in the vicinity of Tal Sawwanah area and in the northern countryside of Al-Raqqah". SOHR. 26 November 2016.
  55. "IS regained control of water pump/station near Kaltah in north Raqqa countryside following clashes with SDF yesterday". Syria Live Map. 27 November 2016.
  56. "Jihan Ahmad: Second phase of the Raqqa campaign due to start". Hawar News. 27 November 2016.
  57. "Local civilian council to run post-ISIS Raqqa: Kurdish official". ARA news. 14 November 2016.

Coordinates: 35°57′00″N 39°01′00″E / 35.9500°N 39.0167°E / 35.9500; 39.0167

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