The Latest: Coalition says stiff resistance from IS in Raqqa

AP News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2017 5:38 AM

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

12:30 p.m.

The spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State says advances against the group in their stronghold of Raqqa have slowed down amid stiff resistance from the militants.

U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon estimates there are around 2,000 IS militants in the northern city, saying they are using civilians and children as human shields.

"We know this is no going to be an easy fight," Dillon says. He spoke to The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday night.

The U.S. has partnered with the Kurdish-dominated coalition fighting force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces in its fight against IS in Syria. In the month since they launched their offensive for Raqqa, they completed their encirclement of the militants and breached the heavily-fortified Old City, gaining a foothold inside.

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8:45 a.m.

The Syrian army and members of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group have launched a major ground offensive in a border area between the two countries.

Government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media reports that military operations began Friday from two fronts on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Arsal and the Syrian village of Fleeta.

The offensive was widely expected after negotiations with militants to leave the area failed over the past days.

The region is a stronghold of Syria's al-Qaida's branch, known as Fatah al-Sham Front, as well as the Islamic State group and the Levant People's Brigades.

Video released by SCMM shows Hezbollah's artillery pounding militant positions.

It was not immediately clear if the Lebanese army is taking part in the battles from the Lebanese side of the border.