IS counter-attacks to defend north Syria town: monitor

29 March, 2017, 02:22 | Author: Essie Rivera

The SDF, backed by US special forces in a campaign that has driven Islamic State from large swathes of northern Syria, fights separately from other rebel groups that seek to topple President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The US led coalition forces have rejected the claim of Islamic State militants about bursting danger to Tabqa dam on Euphrate river in Syria.

The United Nations warned this year of the risk of catastrophic flooding from the dam, Syria's largest, which is at risk from high water levels, deliberate sabotage by IS and further damage from air strikes by the USA -led coalition.

"An American strike yesterday targeted the technical team at the Euphrates Dam, which killed the dam director, a technician, and an electrical engineer", the group said on its Amaq propaganda channel.

Its capture is one of the first major successes for the rebels since the US-led coalition airlifted fighters to put them behind IS lines last week.

The U.S. -led worldwide coalition - named the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve - said the dam had not been targeted by airstrikes.

Syrian paramilitary forces, backed by the United States, have temporarily paused their assault near Tabqa Dam over fears damage caused in the battle for control of the hydroelectric facility could result in it bursting to unleash a deadly wave of floods on the surrounding countryside.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor tracking developments in Syria's conflict via a network of sources on the ground, denied the SDF's statement, according to news agencies' reports. The UN has warned the flooding could be "potentially catastrophic" for those areas downstream.

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The jihadist group still controls the main dam itself, Syria's largest, which straddles the Euphrates River.

Although the majority of the SDF is believed to be Arab, the force is led by the YPG, which recently acknowledged having "direct relations with Russian Federation, " noting the Kremlin is providing them training.

USA troops took part in that operation, providing cover fire with artillery and airstrikes.

An ISIS fighter waves the group's flag from inside a captured government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base in August 2014.

"There is no damage to the dam or its function. and on this basis, the cease-fire ended", said Jihan Sheik Ahmed, spokeswoman for the anti-ISIS forces.

On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days. The analysts say that the Kurdish beginning of the final phase of Raqqa liberation with crucial support from the U.S. and the global coalition will further strain the Turkish relations with the US.

However, the SDF announced on Monday that the structure had been examined by engineers and was intact.

The Syrian government claims US -led airstrikes have put the dam out of service, a potentially hazardous development for the region.

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