The Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) large-scale campaign to oust ISIS from Raqqa city, which is considered to be the group’s last and largest stronghold in Syria, continues amidst reports of the death of prominent IS leaders in the city.
The SDF have progressed swiftly inside and outside Raqqa since operations for the city were announced on June 6th, slowly advancing and capturing neighbourhoods. A southern flank was opened a few days ago, allowing the SDF to besiege ISIS on all sides and cutting supply lines in and out of the city, severely handicapping the group’s defences.
“ISIS are losing, at least militarily”, said Mazen Bilah, a Syrian political analyst. This seems to be the trend not only in Syria but also across Iraq given the group’s near imminent collapse in Mosul.
Airstrikes have also killed Turk bin Ali, a Bahraini religious figure who acted as a spiritual leader for ISIS and known as the most prominent ISIS militant from the Gulf. This comes just days after the death of Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, who was responsible for the group’s finances.
The SDF have so far managed to fully capture several neighbourhoods in Raqqa, and are making more gains in the east, south and west of the city. In the west, intense clashes between the SDF and ISIS militants continue in the Nahda neighbourhood. The SDF have also captured an ammunition depot from ISIS. In response, ISIS launched a Vehicle Based Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) around the Qadisiya neighbourhood. The east of Raqqa has also seen heavy clashed between the SDF and militants in the Sina’a neighbourhood.
As the battle for the city continues, mass displacement has become a key consideration for the SDF with camps in Ein Issa suffering from overcrowding. There are estimated to be up to 200,000 civilians still in Raqqa under ISIS control whose fates are uncertain.