Raqqa was controlled by ISIS for over 3 years and it acted as the terrorist group’s capital in Syria until the recent liberation of the city from their rule. The city has seen severe devastation as it experienced intense clashes between ISIS and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) over the past year, as the SDF had launched its “Operation Wrath of Euphrates” last November, which ended in success last week.
The SDF have conducted initial clearing operations to cleanse the city of remnants of ISIS, which includes the mines and sleeper cells that they have left behind. These operations also involve finding any civilian survivors who were stuck in the city throughout the battles.
A few hundred ISIS militants surrendered to the SDF. A large part of these were composed of foreign militants, who will be detained.
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, despite their strong wish to return to their former places of residence.
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. The Raqqa Civilian Council has asserted that it is playing an active role in the reconstruction of the city, as well as supervising the security forces to ensure the security and safety of the residents as they gradually begin to return to their city.
A number of actors within Syria have expressed their concerns over the celebrations enjoyed by the SDF in Raqqa as some of their fighters held up pictures of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK who is currently imprisoned on an island in Turkey. The celebrations sparked worries of Kurdish separatism within Syria, despite the SDF’s assertions that they are intent on being part of a de-centralised Syria.