All Syrian IS fighters leave Raqa: monitor

Posted Octubre 15, 2017

Yesterday, late in the evening, some Arabic media outlets reported about the completion of the operations to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State militants, which was the terror group's last stronghold in Syria, Armen Petrosyan, an expert on Arabic studies said in a Facebook post.

Mustafa Bali, the spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said on Saturday that this final battle could take hours or days.

Three years after Raqqa became the de facto capital of a self-proclaimed caliphate spanning Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is now clinging onto its final foothold there.

The town lies south of Deir Ezzor city, the provincial capital, where Syrian and allied forces are also trying to oust the militants from a small pocket they still control.

Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added.

Under protests, monitoring and airstrikes by the U.S. -led coalition, it took more than 15 days for the evacuation convoy to reach central city of Deir el-Zour.

"If it happens, it looks like it will be today - foreign and local (fighters)", Omar Alloush, a member of the Raqqa Civil Council, said, adding that the elders had already persuaded 100 Daesh fighters to surrender - something the remaining fighters had ruled out.

Coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said it's important that people who leave Raqqa are "monitored and tracked" and that local ISIS affiliates don't get back into the conflict.

SANA quoted a Foreign Ministry source as saying the move "constitutes blatant aggression on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and a flagrant violation of international law and norms".

But foreign members of the IS jihadist group are apparently excluded. The SDF will search and screen all people departing Raqqa.

Islamic State is facing separate offensives in Deir el-Zour by the SDF on one hand, and Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-backed militia and Russian airstrikes on the other.

US officials believe ISIS has housed much of its leadership as well as up to 10,000 fighters in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

The Kurdish YPG militia, which dominates the SDF, told earlier on Saturday that ISIL was on the verge of defeat in Raqqa, and the city may be cleared of the group's fighters on Saturday or Sunday.

In August, Islamic State fighters agreed to be evacuated from a Lebanon-Syria border area, the first time the militants had publicly agreed to a forced evacuation from territory it held in Syria. The battle has dragged on in the face of stiff resistance from ISIL.