Clashes are ongoing between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and ISIS militants in the city of Raqqa, as organisations in the area warn of increased deaths among civilians caught up in the crossfire, as well as extremely dire humanitarian conditions for those still trapped inside the city.
On Wednesday, the SDF and ISIS clashed in the neighbourhood of al-Rawdah, located to the north of the Old City, with no gains made on either side.
The two sides also clashed in the the Mansour neighbourhood on Wednesday, located to the west of the Old City, as the SDF attempt to consolidate their control of the area. However, despite taking the neighbourhood last weekend, the SDF reportedly came under heavy fire from ISIS militants following an overnight assault that lasted into early on Wednesday morning. Although clashes have subsided today, numerous casualties were reported on both sides.
Among these casualties was the Commander of the Manbij Military Council (MMC), Adnaan Abu Amjad. In a statement released by the SDF on Tuesday evening, it said that Amjad was one of the key figures in drawing up the battle plans in the city of Kobani, which was taken by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in January 2015, and an ongoing fighter in the battle for Raqqa City. The statement did not give exact details as to the reason for his death other than to specify that it was in clashes with ISIS militants.
The increased intensity in the fighting has brought with it deteriorating conditions for civilians in the city, who are caught in the ensuing crossfire. Those that have managed to escape recall the terrible situation inside Raqqa and the treatment by ISIS militants, whose remaining number is estimated at 700.
“There is no bread. We make the dough with our hands,” said one young woman. “If anyone wants to go to the hospital, ISIS militants don’t allow them in and say that the medicine is only for them.” The allocation of food and medicine for their own exploitative purposes is a prevalent story of ISIS’ treatment in areas under their control, which include the final few weeks of the battle for western Mosul.
The United Nations estimates that between 18,000 to 25,000 people remain trapped inside Raqqa City. The SDF have so far taken over half of the city from ISIS, although several neighbourhoods are still to be liberated.
On Monday, Nowruz Ahmed, the General Commander of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the all-female force of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), said that the battle for Raqqa should be finished within two months. “We cannot determine when the battle for Raqqa will exactly end because war has its own conditions,” Ahmed said. “But we don’t expect it to last long. According to our plans the battle will not take longer than two months.”