US-backed forces just got ISIS to surrender a Syrian city, and it's not the first time it's happened

US-backed forces got ISIS fighters to surrender a Syrian town near Raqqa, and, surprisingly, it’s not the first time.

The Syrian Arab Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces “completed the liberation of the Tabqah Dam, as well as the city of Tabqah and its nearby airfield,” on Wednesday, according to a US Central Command statement.

The US-backed forces put pressure on ISIS from each flank, cleared the final neighbourhoods of the city, and isolated Tabqah Dam.

The SAC and SDF then forced the remaining 70 ISIS fighters to dismantle all IEDs around the strategically located dam and surrender their heavy weapons.

They also agreed to ISIS’ withdrawal to protect civilians and preserve the Tabqah dam, which thousands of Syrians rely on for water, agriculture, and electricity.

But “once the ISIS fighters withdrew from the town, [coalition forces] struck them with air strikes,” Marine Maj. Adrian Rankne-Galloway, a spokesman for Central Command, told Business Insider. “We feel these actions were within the law of armed conflict.”

Tabqa DamScreenshot via Google MapsThe Tabqah dam in Syria.

Rankne-Galloway could not say how many ISIS fighters were killed in those strikes, but according to another Central Command press statement, “two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed two fighting positions” on Wednesday.

This is also not the first such capitulation by ISIS fighters. “Partner forces have negotiated limited withdrawals or surrenders like this before,” Rankne-Galloway said. ISIS fighters agreed to withdraw from the Syrian city of Manbij last summer after battling the SDF for three months.

After Tabqah was liberated on Thursday, children and YPG fighters — a Kurdish force that is part of the SDF — could be seen dancing in the streets.

The liberation of Tabqah, which began on March 22, isolates ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa on three sides, but Ranke-Galloway would not speculate about how long it would take to fully isolate the ISIS stronghold.

SDF commander Rojda Felat, however, told AFP in Tabqah that “the attack on Raqqa will take place in the beginning of the summer,” most likely June.

The White House also announced this week that the US would begin supplying the YPG with heavier weapons. This move has angered Turkey, which views the YPG as a terrorist organisation.

The weapons, which will be delivered to the YPG soon, include small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armoured vehicles, and bulldozers.

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