ISIS cancels fighters’ holidays as it prepares to defend Raqqa

The Telegraph reports: Isil has cancelled holidays for militants in its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa as it maximises available manpower ahead of a feared international assault on the city.

Over the past two weeks, the group has accelerated its drive to defend Raqqa, sources inside the area told The Telegraph, digging trenches alongside checkpoints and strengthening a network of underground bunkers.

“Isil cancelled holidays, increased the number of shifts, and asked all members to be present – even the administrators,” said a source in regular contact with civilians inside the city.

Although the extremist group is far from defeat, it is under pressure across several battlefronts, losing strongholds including the Iraqi city of Ramadi in December and the ancient town of Palmyra in March. As Kurdish and Syrian rebel forces prepare to edge towards Raqqa, the city is frequently the target of airstrikes by the US-led coalition, as well as the Syrian air force and Russian warplanes that began an air campaign in the country in late September.

In an attempt to block the view of circling drones, the militants have started hanging sheets across shop-fronts and homes. They are also believed to have moved several key headquarters underground. [Continue reading…]

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