Europe

French defense chief: Battle for Syria's Raqqa within days

  • FILE - In this March 9, 2017 file photo, a large cloud of smoke rises during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants as civilians walk toward Iraqi security forces after fleeing their homes on the western side of Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. is deepening its involvement in the war against the Islamic State group after an unprecedented American airlift of Arab and Kurdish fighters to the front lines in northern Syria, supported by the first use of U.S. attack helicopters and artillery in the country.  (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

    FILE - In this March 9, 2017 file photo, a large cloud of smoke rises during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants as civilians walk toward Iraqi security forces after fleeing their homes on the western side of Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. is deepening its involvement in the war against the Islamic State group after an unprecedented American airlift of Arab and Kurdish fighters to the front lines in northern Syria, supported by the first use of U.S. attack helicopters and artillery in the country. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Wednesday, March 22, 2017 photograph, a pilot prepares to fly an F-18 off of the USS George H.W. Bush as it travels through the Persian Gulf. The carrier soon will begin launching airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

    In this Wednesday, March 22, 2017 photograph, a pilot prepares to fly an F-18 off of the USS George H.W. Bush as it travels through the Persian Gulf. The carrier soon will begin launching airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)  (The Associated Press)

France's defense minister says the battle by international forces to take back the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria will start in the coming days.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Raqqa is a "major objective" for the U.S.-led coalition trying to quash IS extremists in Syria and Iraq.

Le Drian spoke on CNEWS television on Friday.

He says: "Today we can say that Raqqa is encircled and that the battle will begin in the coming days. It will be a very hard battle but it will be an essential battle."

As the coalition advances in its battle to retake the IS stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, the U.S. has been intensifying involvement in Syria's conflict ahead of the battle for Raqqa.