Near Tal Saman (Syrie) (AFP) - A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance on Friday fought fiercely to drive the Islamic State group from a hilltop north of the jihadists' de facto Syrian capital of Raqa.
The fighting took place as a senior official with the Syrian Democratic Forces told AFP that US-led coalition forces had not only provided weapons to the alliance but was also engaged in combat on the ground.
The SDF -- which on November 5 launched an offensive to retake Raqa city with support from the coalition -- encircled the village of Tal Saman, 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Raqa.
Fighting also raged between the SDF and IS inside Tal Saman, an officer said after returning from the front.
"The jihadists have sent three car bombs since Thursday. Our forces managed to blow them up," said Farhad Kurdistan said.
"Our forces are using heavy weapons because Daesh is putting up tough resistance," he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
SDF fighters said Tal Saman offers a view of surrounding rocky desert terrain and villages near Raqa, which has been under IS control since 2014.
"Daesh is resisting because Tal Saman is on a hill from which one can see the villages" outside Raqa city, another officer said, asking to remain anonymous.
Nasser Hajj Mansur, an adviser to the SDF general command, said the alliance had received better weaponry from the international coalition against IS.
"The coalition was already supporting us in the Raqa campaign by supplying arms, equipment, troop transport, armour and ammunition," he said.
"But recently, the deliveries have become greater, both in terms of quantity and quality," he told AFP, without going into specifics.
He said "the actions of coalition forces are not confined to advice and air coordination, they are directly involved in operations on the ground".
In neighbouring Iraq, US-backed forces are also pressing an assault to retake the IS bastion of Mosul from the jihadists.
The battle against IS in both countries is taking place against the backdrop of a conflict in Syria that has killed more than 300,000 people since it erupted with anti-government protests in 2011.
It has since escalated into a complex, multi-faceted war.