Syrian experts visit critical dam spillway near main IS base

Syrian activists say USA -backed Syrian Kurdish forces have reached the Tabqa air base in northern Syria and are fighting to seize it from Islamic State control.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) offensive was briefly suspended on Monday, a day after a senior Syrian government official warned that the Tabqa dam had been damaged by US-led air raids and cited an increasing risk of catastrophic flooding. Last week, USA aircraft ferried hundreds of Syrian Democratic Forces fighters, as well as American artillery and military advisers, behind Islamic State lines.

On Tuesday, Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff leveled strident criticism against the USA over pounding the dam that lies 40 kilometers west of Daesh's main stronghold of Raqqah.

Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels-which put pressure on the structure-were already high.

A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter walks at the northern part of the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River. It said the dam was at risk of collapse because of air strikes and increased water levels.

A group of civic bodies and local and tribal notables from Raqqa province warned of an impending humanitarian crisis in the city of Raqqa as a result of the escalating campaign to seize the de facto capital of the militants.

Amid fears for the dam's integrity, the SDF announced Monday it was pausing operations for four hours to allow engineers to enter the facility. "To our knowledge, the dam has not been structurally damaged", it said on its Twitter account.

A media representative for the US -led coalition fighting Islamic State said it was looking into the Observatory's assertion.

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Reuters reported on Tuesday that Syrian engineers were working to clear spillways and ease pressure on the Euphrates River where its waters flow toward the dam.

As a result, there are bad weather days when the US -led coalition conducts very limited airstrikes against ISIS. 27, 2017 by the Aamaq News Agency, a media arm of the Islamic State group, shows smoke rising near the Tabqa Dam, in Raqqa, Syria.

Islamic State fighters captured the Tabqa airbase from the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in August 2014, during the group's sweep through wide swathes of Iraq and Syria.

YPG commander Sipan Hemo also said U.S. Apache attack helicopters "will participate in providing air support to our forces".

"Our forces are advancing in a way to ensure the safety of the dam", Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, the SDF spokeswoman for the Raqqa campaign, said via a social messaging site.

"More than 50 ISIS jihadists fled Raqqa city along with their families during the past two days", a local media activist told ARA News on Wednesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said the cuts are due to the fighting around the Tabqa dam, 25 miles west of Raqqa.

UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Monday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.

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