The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, continue to attack the last remaining areas of ISIS-held Raqqa in northern Syria.
The battle, which has almost lasted four months and forms part of the wider Wrath of Euphrates operations, looks set to be entering its final chapter. With the near collapse of ISIS in Raqqa, the group’s presence in Syria has almost been extinguished, especially as the group loses further territory in its other Syrian stronghold of Deir ez-Zour.
According to SDF fighters on the ground, operations over the last few days are being slowed down by the prevalence of mines left behind by ISIS militants. This tactic, not uncommon to the group across the region, has resulted in the death of dozens of fighters and civilians alike.
Furthermore, ISIS militants continue to use civilians as human shields. Reports emanated over the weekend of civilians fleeing to the city’s municipal stadium and being subsequently used as human shields. Although the SDF attempted to make incursions into the stadium, these attempts have thus far been pushed back and the situation remains unresolved.
Despite this, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced last week that the SDF has now gained control over 90% of Raqqa after ISIS militants withdrew from several of the city’s districts. Many citizens who were displaced by the fighting have subsequently returned to their homes, especially in the east of the city, citing the desire to return home and leave the treacherous camps located north of the city.
Moreover, the Commander of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), Jihad Sheikh Ahmed, toured parts of Raqqa with journalists and other media figures last week to highlight the growing security the city following the expulsion of ISIS.
However, fighting persisted over the weekend and into today. On Sunday evening, the militants led a counter-attack and retook parts of the Firdous Neighbourhood, located west of the Old City, while today SDF fighters clashed with ISIS militants in the Andalusia neighbourhood on the northern axis of Raqqa.