Ever since Raqqa was liberated from ISIS, displaced people from the city have expressed relief at leaving ISIS control and hope that their misery of displacement will end soon. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for their part, who are now in control of large parts of northern Syria, celebrated this victory following their four-month-long battle against the militant group.
Raqqa city had been initially captured by a variety of rebel forces, including the IS (then known as the Islamic State in Iraq), al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in mid-2013. By the end of 2013, ISIS had gained full control of the city. The capture of Raqqa by ISIS became a turning point for the terrorist group. The city became its most prominent stronghold, from where they expanded their reach across Syria and Iraq.
The SDF-led offensive “Operation Wrath of Euphrates” was launched by the alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces backed by the International coalition on 6th November 2016. The fifth and final phase – to take the city of Raqqa itself – began on 6th June 2017.
The SDF have announced that fighters are currently in the process of seeking out any sleeper cells and hidden militants that may have remained in Raqqa. The city is also strewn with mines and explosives, which require cleansing operations in order to bring the displaced back to their homes.
However, given the wide-scale damage to schools, hospitals and residential buildings, the city has been left with no electricity or potable water, and its last functioning bakery was recently destroyed. In the short term, this means that Raqqa cannot be inhabited by the residents, with the Raqqa Civilian Council, which took over administrative power of the city over the weekend, saying that it will take at least three months to remove a large portion of the debris and de-mine buildings.