Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) sit in the back of pick-up truck in the village of Hazima on the northern outskirts of the Islamic States (IS) group's Syrian bastion of Raqa on June 6, 2017. AFP / DELIL SOULEIMAN
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U.S.-backed Syrian rebels said Tuesday they had launched a battle to free Raqqa, Daesh's (ISIS') base of operations in Syria, attacking from the east, west and north of the city.The Raqqa assault will pile more pressure on the militant group's self-declared caliphate as it faces defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul and retreats across much of Syria.THE CITY Raqqa is Syria's sixth-largest city and sits on the Euphrates River around 90 km from the Turkish border in north-central Syria.According to the U.S.-led coalition, 3,000-4,000 Daesh fighters could be holed up in Raqqa city, erecting defenses against the anticipated assault.For months, the SDF has encircled Raqqa from the north, east and west, facing tough resistance from the militants who have used the city as a hub for planning attacks abroad.The United Nations has said sites in and around the city have been extensively looted during the war and religious buildings have been damaged.
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