A schism among Syrian rebel fighters threatens to slow down the battle against Islamic State

After about 700 Kurdish forces freed the devastated neighborhood last week, it was recaptured by Islamic State. Militants gained ground after some of the 350 Free Syrian Army troops deployed there lost two fighters to sniper fire and fled, Bilind said. Kurdish forces retrieved the bodies, and launched a new attack.

In the ensuing battle, eight Kurdish soldiers were killed (they had already lost 20 in the fight for eastern Raqqah). The survivors returned to find that the house they had used as a base had been burned by the militants, although their staircase command post was relatively unscathed. Late Monday, Islamic State launched a new mortar attack up the street. Sniper fire sounded nearby Tuesday afternoon.

“They are delaying the liberation of Raqqah,” Bilind said of Free Syrian Army forces, after numerous Kurdish overnight offensives. “At night we are controlling and in the day they are leaving. We have two options: Force them to fight, or let them go and replace them.”