Storming into the capital of horror Raqqa

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue their advance deeper into the city of Raqqa, the capital of the so-called caliphate declared by ISIS.

The campaign to liberate the city, which is one of ISIS’ last remaining strongholds in Syria, is currently in its fifth stage of liberation . The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recently reported that the SDF has retaken approximately 35% of the city of Raqqa. Recently, on 17th July, SDF fighters completely retook the Yarmouk neighbourhood, west of Raqqa.

On the western front of the contested city, the battle for Raqqa is being fought between ISIS and SDF snipers. Amongst the SDF snipers is a young woman called Takushin. She learned to shoot a sniper in the city of Kobani (also known as Ayn al-Arab), which was liberated by the SDF from ISIS forces in March 2015.

As the Raqqa campaign continues into its eighth month, Takushin remains optimistic.

“We are advancing gradually, but not rushing. We will liberate the city eventually. We will fight them. How much power could they still have? This will be their final battle,” said Takushin in her snipers nest in western Raqqa.

SDF snipers in the city are co-ordinating with coalition aircraft to help neutralise ISIS militants. A soldier embedded in a sniper unit reports that raids targeting the remaining militants are accurate.

While the campaign is moving ahead at a steady pace, the large number of civilians is hindering a faster advance into the city.

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic, reported that “between 30,000 and 50,000 people remain trapped in Raqqa city”. This significant number of trapped people will considerably slow the advance of the SDF.

“Availability of food, water, medicine, electricity and other essentials had been dwindling, with the situation rapidly deteriorating,” said Mahecic on the dire conditions in the city.