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ISIS Permits Evacuation From Raqqa as Battle For City Looms

Locals began escaping the ISIS-controlled city earlier this week after coalition planes dropped flyers calling on residents to flee in anticipation for an offensive
ISIS Permits Evacuation From Raqqa as Battle For City Looms

Tuesday saw a large increase in cases of people fleeing the city of Raqqa, especially through smuggling routes, as the Islamic State group prevented civilians from removing any personal items from their homes, including furniture, luggage or bags.

Sources told Al-Souria Net that locals had begun escaping the city days ago after planes dropped flyers calling on residents to leave, inciting major confusion among civilians despite attempts by ISIS to reassure them that the drop was aimed at “spreading rumors and fear among the residents.”

Khalil Hamlou, a journalist from the province, said on Facebook that the streets of Raqqa are “almost empty, except for cars carrying the city’s people toward the west and east, the Jabal al-Kasrat, and the university area.”

Hamlou said that ISIS cars were “passing quickly though the streets. The coalition’s warplanes have not left the city’s skies, but so far they haven’t started bombing.”

Eyewitnesses inside the city told Al-Souria Net that Tuesday and Wednesday saw an increase in sorties without any strikes, pointing out that the Islamic State group’s anti-aircraft weapons engaged them “unusually” heavily.

These developments coincided with what a number of activists in the province’s countryside observed about the start of “the campaign to liberate northern Raqqa” on Wednesday from three directions.

The first direction began from the town of Ain Eissa, the second from Maataam al-Nakheel, while the third was from the Division 93. Fighters from Liwa Ahrar al-Raqqa, Liwa al-Tahrir (which previously joined the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces) will be at the forefront of the joint forces in the campaign. It is expected the SDF will issue a statement about this soon.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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