Kurds capture IS base north of Syria's Raqqa

Earnest credited the Kurdish-led gains in part to Washington having convinced Ankara previous year to allow U.S.-armed Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross Turkish territory to help Syrian Kurds retake the border town of Kobani, a key defeat for Islamic State after it had seized a third of Syria and Iraq.

The debate about airstrikes in Syria has heated up as the Kurdish Democratic Union Party PYD's military wing - People Protection Units, known as YPG - recently captured the northern Syrian city of Tell Abyad and allegedly forced local Arabs and Turkmens from their lands while uprooting ISIL from the last piece of Syrian land bordering Turkey.

Kurdish YPG-led fighters captured a town held by Islamic State on Tuesday, inching closer to Raqqa, the hardcore Islamist group’s de facto capital of a self-declared "caliphate".

Syria’s official SANA news agency said two suicide bombings struck a roundabout in the northeastern city of Hassakeh, killing one person and wounding 13, including five children.

Both the military base and Ain Issa are on the main road between Kurdish-held territory in Aleppo province to the west and Hasakeh province to the east.

Later Tuesday, the Observatory and YPG spokesman Redur Khalil said Kurdish fighters and their allies took over the nearby town of Ein Issa, the last major residential area north of Raqqa. The USA has conducted 3,596 of the strikes with 1,930 in Iraq and 1,666 in Syria.

The taking of the base is the second blow inflicted on IS fighters by the Kurds in a week after the capture of Tal Abyad, on Syria’s border with Turkey.

The advance put the Kurdish fighters within about 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa.

Daesh is an Arabic name for Islamic State. A Pentagon spokesman said last week ISIL had appeared to "crack" at Tel Abyad.

Asked whether the de facto Islamic State capital was now a target, he said: "Raqqa is a Syrian city, like Tel Abyad and Kobani, and all Syrians want it freed of Daesh terror". But at the current time it is not included in our agenda. At least 2,896 people, mostly ISIL militants, had been killed in coalition strikes in Syria since the air campaign began in September previous year.

Some Syrian opposition activists have accused the YPG of driving Arabs and Turkmen from areas taken over in the latest advance - an accusation of ethnic cleansing echoed by the Turkish government but vehemently denied by the YPG. The Observatory has said there has been no evidence of systematic abuses by the YPG, though there have been individual cases.

The Observatory said this week that the militants had planted mines in Palmyra but that it was not clear whether it was preparing to destroy the site or wanted to deter government forces from advancing towards it. Its fighters have planted explosives in the ruins, the Observatory reported on Saturday, raising concern the site could meet the same fate as monuments plundered and razed by the group in Iraq.

"We're not going to say specifically what our immediate plans are. It is a battle fortify the regime's defensive lines", said the source in Syria briefed on the situation.

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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