11 April, 2017
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by a US -led worldwide coalition, said in a statement they had seized the air base.
The U.S. has deployed more than 700 advisers, Marines and Rangers to Syria to support fighters battling Islamic State.
US-backed Syrian fighters have reached a major dam held by the Islamic State group in the north of Syria, according to officials.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said IS forces had withdrawn from the airbase under heavy artillery fire and US-led coalition air strikes.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the battle to recapture Raqqa from the evil terror clan was likely to start in the coming day after Coalition forces encircled the city.
Central Command said an operation behind enemy lines to seize Tabqa Dam would give Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) the "strategic advantage" needed to liberate the city.
Dejwar Khabat, a field commander with the SDF, said he expects the assault on Raqqa to begin in early April, affirming a timeline reported by Reuters earlier this month, after the US-backed militia closes the gap on the city on more fronts.
The road to the dam was strewn with bits of burned vehicles and the casings of ammunition and the bodies of several alleged IS fighters lie in the shallow water of a canal, evidence of fierce fighting.
The US has provided substantial air and ground support to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are closing in on Raqqa as well as the Tabqa Dam.More news: Spotify planning direct listing that stops short of IPO
Talal Silo, the SDF military spokesman, said the battles with the IS militants are taking place inside and around the airport, adding that the facility will be declared liberated from IS within hours.
The push by the USA -backed SDF toward the city of Tabqa and the nearby areas is part of a major offensive against Raqqa.
US-led coalition forces said the dam was structurally sound.
The UN has warned that damage to the dam "could lead to massive scale flooding across Raqa and as far away as Deir Ezzor" province downstream to the southeast.
IS seized the base from government troops in August 2014 and carried out one of its worst massacres there, killing up to 200 government soldiers.
The reports from Raqqa came as a leading Syrian opposition group called on the US-led coalition to stop targeting residential areas in and around the city. The worldwide coalition battling the Islamic State group in its Syrian stronghold of Raqa will begin a final push on the city in the coming days, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today.
Fighting at the dam held by IS in northern Syria put it out of service, risking risky rising water levels, a technical source told AFP.
United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura hosted Mr al-Ja'afari at United Nations offices in Geneva for the talks set to take place over at least several days around issues of governance, elections, a new constitution and the fight against terrorism.