SDF's Ehmed: ISIS in the throes of death in Raqqa
Wrath of Euphrates Spokesperson stated that ISIS will be expelled from around Raqqa city upon the completion of the operation's fourth phase, saying: "ISIS gangs outside the city will either be destroyed or retreat to the city."
The fourth phase of Operation Wrath of Euphrates, which was launched by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with the support of the US-led International Coalition 5 months ago, continues. The fourth phase targets Jallab Valley in north Raqqa where there are two towns and 20 villages. Raqqa is on verge of an urban battle. SDF fighters are currently fighting at three fronts simultaneously. Wrath of Euphrates Operation Room Spokesperson Cihan Shekh Ehmed stated that the previous phases of the operation have been completed as planned, and ISIS could not avoid the inevitable result despite all the methods it employs.
Spokesperson Cihan Şêx Ehmed answered ANF's questions on Operation Wrath of Euphrates and Turkey's never-ending plans on the region.
"IT WAS A PAINFUL ACCIDENT"
How did the accident International Coalition warplanes made in Tabqa take place, can you share the information you have on this issue?
Our General Command made a statement on this issue already. However, let me point out that such accidents do occur during wars. Our basis is to minimize the risk of accidents and losses as we carry out the operation. Despite this careful approach, such painful accidents occur. Our General Command has launched an investigation. It would be wrong to go into the details of an issue under investigation. We are transparent on everything. We will share the results of the investigation with the public.
"RAQQA IS NOW WITHIN THE RANGE"
It has been nearly 5 months since the launch of the Operation Wrath of Euphrates aiming to liberate the Raqqa region. There were also interim periods of preparation. Is it possible to state how much time remains?
As you know, the operations is carried out in a vast territory. Some parts of Deir ez-Zor were also included in the operation. Many settlements were liberated and strategic supply routes were cut. Tabqa's siege and liberation is an example. Our forces have taken some neighborhoods of Tabqa under control. Our effort to liberate this region is part of our goal to cleanse the entire Syrian land off ISIS. We have liberated an area of thousands of km2 in East, West and North Raqqa. Raqqa cannot be liberated without the liberation of these areas. Raqqa is our ultimate goal, but its liberation will not take a long period of time.
We are careful about two topics:
* Protection and security of civilians
* Achieving our goal with minimum losses
We estimate time periods for each phase based on the terrain and the position and strength of ISIS. I can clearly state that the previous phases of the operation have been completed as planned. In fact, we reached our goal earlier than planned during the first phase of the operation.
"RAQQA BEING SURROUNDED FROM FOUR SIDES"
Is Raqqa besieged completely? Can we say that urban warfare will begin after the fourth phase?
We have cut all strategic ISIS supply routes:
* We cut the connection to Iraq with the liberation of the Deir ez-Zor road. We took entire eastern Raqqa under control.
* With the offensive to besiege and liberate Tabqa, all supply routes were finally cut as we took Tabqa-Raqqa and Raqqa-Damascus roads under control.
Now, ISIS cannot reinforce its forces, ammunition and logistics. They are besieged in Raqqa from four sides. When we first started the operation, we had planned to siege Raqqa from three directions. The siege from four directions began with the liberation of Safsafah village during the operation to liberate Tabqa.
"WE CLEAR THE SHAME"
You put emphasis on avenging women when the operation began, have you rescued any women taken captive by ISIS during the operation?
Yes, we launched the operation to avenge Êzîdî women and children, and the women of Syria and the world because ISIS was taking women captive as spoils of war everywhere it attacked. ISIS brought the Êzîdî women it had kidnapped in Shengal to Raqqa and sold them in markets. They tortured the women they captured and dared to say that they were doing this in the name of Islam. This is a greatest shame of the 21st century. We wanted to clear this shame. Therefore, we said that Operation Wrath of Euphrates was at the same time an operation to avenge women. ISIS carries out systematic and deliberate cultural, social, moral and ideological attacks on women. This is a culture of rape and slavery. Operation Wrath of Euphrates is also an initiative to inflict an ideological blow on ISIS.
Regarding the other part of your question, we have rescued 137 Êzidî women and children from ISIS during this operation. We transferred all of these people to secure areas and many of them have reunited with their families. Apart from that, we have also rescued thousands of women, children and elderly from Arab, Turkmen and other communities.
We have rescued many women and children from other parts of Syria as well. Some of the women we have rescued are from other countries. Those we rescued include many who suffered terrible ISIS cruelty and have tragic stories. For example, we recently rescued a Tunisian woman. One gets goosebumps when listening to her story. She came to Syria when she was married to an ISIS member, who was later killed during ISIS' attempt to occupy Kobanê. She says that she was sold to other ISIS members afterwards. Currently, we are trying to send her to her country. There are still hundreds or thousands of women waiting to be liberated from ISIS. It is our duty to rescue them.
ISIS killed the hope of life and freedom in these people. Now, they are coming back to life.
"THIS IS NOT ONLY A MILITARY OPERATION"
Can we say that Operation Wrath of Euphrates is not only a military operation?
Of course, one can see that Operation Wrath of Euphrates is not only a military but also a social, cultural and humanitarian operation. It has made great political and moral achievements until now. We took the people from the areas we liberated to secure zones. We took those that were forced to heave their homes and lands to our camps. They are staying in these camps until their cities, towns and villages are liberated. The people whose villages, towns and cities are safe from the threat of ISIS are turning back to their homes.
"THEY WILL EITHER BE DESTROYED OR RETREAT"
Can you describe us the extent, goal and importance of the operation's fourth phase?
The fourth phase of the operation aims to liberate the remaining villages ISIS controls in North Raqqa. This phase can be seen as the eve of the urban warfare that will take place in city center because ISIS will not be controlling anywhere around Raqqa after this phase.
Another important aspect of this operation is the reality that our forces can fight ISIS on three fronts simultaneously; Deir ez-Zor, Tabqa and Jallab Valley in North Raqqa.
During this phase, remaining ISIS gangs will either get destroyed or retreat to the city. Therefore, ISIS is currently in the throes of death.
ISIS may carry out all-out attacks at this stage in order to prevent its destruction. They are attacking Tabqa in order to not suffocate. They are employing all savage methods. They began to use civilians as human shields. They tried to hit our forces by blending in with the civilians. However, these attacks and methods will not prevent their end.
"TURKEY SHOULD ACT LIKE OUR NEIGHBOR"
Lastly, I would like to ask you this; there is talk of Turkey's plans to attack Efrîn, Hesekê and Girê Spî. Do you think that this is possible?
Turkey always wanted to take part in the Raqqa operation in order to expand its invasion of Syrian lands and make itself permanent here. International powers chose the SDF that is made up of the children of Syria.
Turkey is a neighboring country. So far, we acted according to the terms of neighborhood. We paid attention to international norms and had the respect being neighbors requires. However, Turkey has entered Syrian land and attacked our positions and civilian people in order to provoke us into war. We have avoided this. We never harmed Turkey. We are expecting Turkey to abide by the terms of neighborhood and stop its border violations and dirty plans.
Our main goal is to fight against the barbaric and savage terror organization ISIS. We are fighting ISIS because it is not only our enemy but also the enemy of humanity.
If Turkey wants to fight ISIS, it should not obstruct our forces. There are no ISIS gangs in our region. It should fight ISIS in the areas not under our control. Turkey says that it is a part of the International Coalition. Then, it should abide by the coalition. Is there ISIS in Girê Spî or Manbij? What does it have to do with the fight against ISIS to plan to attack the areas which we liberated from ISIS at a great cost? These are our lands, the lands of Syria, and under the protection of our forces.
I repeat; we abide by the terms of neighborhood. We expect the same from Turkey.