US-backed fighters have forced out the Islamic State group from Raqa's Old City, a spokesman told AFP, bringing them closer than ever to the jihadists' most well-defended positions.
"Our forces today seized full control of the Old City in Raqa after clashes with Daesh," Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Talal Sello said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
"We are on the edges of IS's security quarter in the city center, where most of its main bases are." Most of IS's fighters and up to 25,000 civilians are expected to still be holed up in the city centre.
The SDF's Arab and Kurdish fighters first broke into Raqain early June and penetrated its Old City a month later. They were able to enter it after US-led coalition airstrikes opened up two gaps in the Rafiqah wall, a 2,500-metre barrier surrounding the Old City.
The SDF has captured more than 60 percent of Raqa city and most of the surrounding northern province. Sello declined to say when the alliance expected to seize all of the Raqa, but said operations were proceeding "according to schedule".
"Control over the Old City - which has historical importance - is a moral victory against IS, which is collapsing in Raqa. Its defeat there is inevitable," he added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the SDF was still locked in clashes with IS in a small part of the Old City.
IS overran Raqa in 2014, turning it into the de facto capital of its self-declared "caliphate". The city was the scene of some of the group's worst atrocities, including public beheadings.