ISLAMIC State is on the verge of being defeated in Raqqa, as terrified citizens have fled the war torn city and fighters surrendered.
ALL Syrian fighters of the Islamic State group have left the jihadists’ one-time bastion of Raqqa and preparations are under way for foreign combatants to leave.
The Syrian jihadists left Raqqa with their families, heading to unknown destinations, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A Raqqa official said Syrian IS members had surrendered to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces battling to take full control of the city, without specifying how many.
“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. (IS) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” Syrian Kurdish YPG militia spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said.
Syrian civilians who fled from the areas that still controlled by the Islamic State militants, as they gather at point of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, in Raqqa, Syria. Picture: Mezopotamya Agency, via APSource:AP
Scores of civilians including women and children fled the last few remaining neighbourhoods held by the IS in Raqqa, ahead of an anticipated final push by U.S.-backed fighters seeking to retake the city.
A new video that emerged Friday shows desperate, terrified residents emerging from destroyed districts, some of them collapsing on the ground in exhaustion as they arrive.
They seemed to be taking advantage of a slowdown in the fighting and airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition amid efforts to ensure the safe evacuation of an estimated 4,000 civilians who remain trapped in the city.
The group titled ‘Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently’ announced on Facebook that buses had entered the city, “headed from the northern Raqqa countryside towards Raqqa city last night”.
Around 100 Islamic State fighters have handed themselves over to US-backed fighters in the northern city.
A member of the IS militant group parading in a street in the northern rebel-held Syrian city of Raqqa. Picture: AFPSource:AFP
Omar Alloush of the Raqqa Civilian Council said fighting is still ongoing in parts of the city that was once the de facto capital of IS.
“There are still fighters but the area they control is getting smaller,” said Mohammed Khedher of Sound and Picture Organisation, that monitors IS in Iraq and Syria.
The video released by the Turkey-based Kurdish Mezopotamya Medya on Friday showed clearly petrified residents running toward safety, some clutching babies or wounded people.
U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, stand around Syrian civilians who fled. Picture: Mezopotamya Agency, via APSource:AP
“This is my husband, we are civilians!” one woman cried, fearing that fighters from the U.S.-backed force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces would take him away. Some of the arriving men were searched before being allowed in while others kissed the ground in relief.
“God is stronger than them (IS),” shouted another woman, clutching what appeared to be a large Quran in her hand.
Another elderly man hobbled out on crutches, begging for water. After drinking from a bottle handed to him, he collapsed on the ground in exhaustion. Gunfire could be heard in the background.
Scores of civilians including women and children are fleeing the last few remaining neighbourhoods held by the Islamic State group in Syria’s northern city of Raqqa. Picture: Mezopotamya Agency, via APSource:AP
The news comes as the US-backed forces fighting Islamic State militants in Syria have been waging the “final” battle to uproot the extremists from the northern city of Raqqa.
Mustafa Bali, the spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said on Saturday that this final battle could take hours or days.
Losing Raqqa, once the de facto capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate, would be a major blow to the militant group.
Bali says IS militants are desperately fighting in a number of neighbourhoods in the city.
The battle for Raqqa began in June, with heavy street-by-street fighting amid intense US-led coalition air strikes and shelling.
Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) discovered a secret network of tunnels dug by the Islamic State militants in the west of Raqqa city on August 3, 2017. Picture: Ahmed Deeb for The Wall Street JournalSource:The Wall Street Journal
The have captured around 80 per cent of the city so far.
IS still controls the city’s stadium that is believed to be a jail run by extremists, along with the National Hospital.
The battle has dragged in the face of stiff resistance from the militants and civilians trapped in the city.
The coalition has said that IS militants are holding some civilians to use as human shields, preventing them from escaping as the fight enters its final stages. The city, on the banks of the Euphrates River, has been badly damaged by the fighting, and activists have reported that over 1,000 civilians have been killed there since June.
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