Backed forces breach wall around Raqqa's Old City

US-backed forces in Syria have entered the most heavily fortified area of Raqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State group, in what a U.S. official says is a "key milestone" in the war against the jihadist force.

The Syrian Democratic Fighters - a militia of rebel groups led by Kurdish YPG fighters - breached the Rafiqah wall, which surrounds the Old City, on Monday.

It said the gaps meant forces had avoided going in via breaks already in the wall, where Islamic State fighters had planted mines and coalition forces likely would have been targeted by snipers and fire from heavy machine guns. On Sunday, the US -backed fighters crossed the Euphrates River on the southern edge of the city, completing its encirclement.

The U.S. -led coalition is providing close air support to the SDF, which has already driven the extremists from much of northern and eastern Syria.

US-backed Kurdish-led forces battling ISIS have breached the Old City Wall in Raqqa. Islamic State forces have held Raqqa for more than a year. "The portions targeted were 25-meter sections and will help preserve the remainder of the overall 2,500-meter wall", it added, without specifying where those portions were.

IS overran Raqa in 2014, turning it into the de facto capital of its self-declared "caliphate". The group also controls the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra but Raqqa is the biggest city it has captured in the country.

But because lessons are apparently never learned in wartime, the USA strategy for the invasion of the ISIS capital city of Raqqa appears once again to hinge on the idea that the USA can manufacture a whole new pro-US force that will get to keep the city after the Kurdish YPG conquers it.

The city was the scene of some of the group's worst atrocities, including public beheadings.

The United Nations has warned that up to 100,000 civilians are still trapped in Raqqa and there are reports that IS has prevented many people from leaving the city, using them as human shields against incoming forces.

As Daesh loses ground, tensions are rising among the array of forces battling it.

Isis has lost most of the controlled areas in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, which the group seized in 2014.

The advances in Raqqa come as the Islamic State faces imminent defeat in the streets of the Old City of Mosul.

  • Rogelio Becker