Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.
Fight against ISIS: U.S.-backed forces have encircled Raqqa, the former capital of the so-called Islamic State, from the west, north and east. The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab forces, captured water and gas facilities in Raqqa’s northern countryside and advanced to roughly 2 miles (3km) away from Raqqa city.
SDF units, including Kurdish fighters, received a new weapons shipment in preparation for the battle in the city, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
As SDF forces push to encircle Raqqa, civilians in the city are bracing themselves for the upcoming battle.
Roughly 10,000 civilians have fled the militant stronghold and roughly 800 more people are arriving each day at the SDF-managed Ain Issa refugee camp halfway between the border town of Tell Abyad and Raqqa, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said suspected U.S.-led coalition airstrikes near Raqqa killed at least 18 people over the weekend and at least seven on Thursday.
Alleged U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Mayadeen, in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor reportedly killed Baraa Kadek, the founder of ISIS’ Aamaq media channel.
Tensions rising In southern Syria: Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) troops fighting ISIS in Iraq reached the border with Syria on Monday, which PMF spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi said would “be an important incentive for the Syrian Arab Army to secure the entire border from the Syrian side.”
This latest development comes after weeks of growing tension between pro-government forces and U.S. and U.K.-backed forces near Syria’s southern borders with Iraq and Jordan. A large number of pro-government fighters have been deployed around the strategic southern town of Tanf, which houses the base where American and British troops are training Syrian rebels fighting ISIS.
In response to the deployment, U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon said on Thursday that the U.S. had “increased [their] presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat presented by the pro-regime forces.”
A deadly month for civilians: More than 900 civilians were killed in Syria during the month of May, according to Syrian human rights violation monitoring groups.
At least 964 civilians died in May, including 273 killed by airstrikes carried out by the international coalition, 268 killed by Islamic extremist groups, and 241 killed by Syrian regime forces, according to a new report from the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the May death toll at 980 civilians, including at least 87 people who were killed in the “de-escalation zones” agreed to in early May by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
More than 146,000 civilians were displaced this month, including at least 94,000 from the province of Raqqa and more than 9,000 people from Damascus, the suburbs and areas of southern Syria, according to a new report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.