Attacks on Raqqa moving swiftly. I suspect most of ISIS leadership has already fled

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of Kurdish and Arab fighters backed by the U.S., have captured a number of key neighborhoods near Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold in Syria, the group announced Monday. The announcement signals the progress of a larger offensive, launched last week, to overtake Raqqa from ISIS militants, who have maintained control of the city since 2014. In May, the Trump administration offered critical assistance by agreeing to arm and train members of the SDF’s primary Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

In the last few days, the SDF has succeeded in carrying out attacks to the north, east, and west. On Monday, the group captured the western neighborhood of al-Romaniya and a sugar factory complex in the northeast. On the same day, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that SDF had overtaken the industrial neighborhood of al-Sanaa, though fighting in the area continues. According to Ahmad Mohammed, an SDF media officer, the group has now reached the walls of the Old City, a neighborhood east of central Raqqa.

A local activist group announced Sunday that coalition air strikes, backed by the U.S., have destroyed “almost every important building in Raqqa,” including schools and mosques. In the last 48 hours, at least 24 civilians have reportedly been killed due to escalating violence in the region. The SDF has previously estimated that around 3,000 to 4,000 ISIS fighters are trapped in Raqqa, along with around 160,000 civilians.

Citing information from a local activist, Al Jazeera reports that ISIS is expected to retreat or surrender in the coming days. According to the activist, who asked to be identified by his first name, Ahmad, ISIS has cleared local residents to leave the area if they surrender their belongings....
Other reports indicate that most of the ISIS leadership has fled to Deir el-Zour in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.  If there is some thought of surrender it would be new for ISIS which has actually killed its fighters who retreated and refused to let them surrender in the past.  If this battle concludes quickly I expect US-backed forces will concentrate on the area now occupied by ISIS leaders.


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