Syrian Democratic Forces expel ISIS from key town north Raqqa, displaced civilians return home

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Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) clearing a village north of Raqqa after ISIS expulsion. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Hisha – Displaced civilians from the Hisha town in northern Raqqa have returned home after nearly a week of displacement. More than 5,000 civilians returned to the key town of Hisha after the expulsion of ISIS at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), local sources reported on Tuesday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had imposed a siege on the ISIS-held Hisha town north of Raqqa last week. Residents of the town have been forced to leave their homes due to the intensified violence.

However, civilians have started to return home since Monday after their town was liberated by the SDF as part of the Euphrates Wrath Operation for Raqqa.

The SDF forces have also dismantled dozens of ISIS explosives to secure the families’ return.

“Our town was liberated from ISIS, thanks to the Syrian Democratic Forces. Today we returned home safely,” Awad Khalaf, a citizen of Hisha, told ARA News. “All necessary means of life are now available.”

Muhammad Khidir, another returnee, said that the increasing violence had forced them to leave. “We have been displaced from our town for nearly six days due to intensifying conflict,” Khidir told ARA News.

Omar Alloush, an official in the SDF-kinked Rojava Self-Administration, said: “The people of Hisha have started returning to their hometown, and the work will continue to provide basic services to the liberated town of Hisha.”

“All public institutions will be reactivated soon, such as the hospital, the main bakery and other establishments to serve the people of Hisha,” he told ARA News.

“We have also promised the people that we’ll reopen the schools, here and in other liberated areas in northern Raqqa,” the official said. “We want to express our happiness for the liberation and the return of the IDPs. We will work together to maintain civil peace in this town and other liberated areas,” Aloush said.

“We had taken a temporary shelter in the nearby town of Ain Issa, and now we have safely returned to our hometown. It is a great moment indeed.”

In the meantime, the SDF continued their anti-ISIS military campaign of the Euphrates Wrath Operation for Raqqa.

Many civilians in Raqqa’s north have been trying to escape from ISIS to more secure areas, but the lack of a safe passage has been preventing them so far.

Battle for Raqqa

The Kurdish-led SDF announced the death of at least 167 ISIS militants so far in the campaign that started last week.

“Our forces have liberated dozens of villages and farms in northern Raqqa, in an area measuring approximately 550 square kilometres during the first phase of the operation,” the SDF said in a statement.

“Also, dead bodies of 167 ISIS terrorists have been found subsequent to clashes, and four terrorists were taken captive by our forces,” the SDF leadership reported on Monday.

Military sources told ARA News that the Syrian Democratic Forces have also captured seven strategic hills in the northern suburb of Raqqa after heavy fighting with ISIS.

“Since the start of the battle for Raqqa, the SDF has destroyed 14 ISIS military vehicles, 8 Doshka machine guns and 4 ISIS artilleries, beside dismantling 240 improvised explosive devices,” the SDF leadership said. “Our forces also seized a large deal of ammunition during the clashes.”

At least four SDF fighters have lost their lives since the start of the operation last week.

“ISIS is unable to resist for long. Raqqa operation is going well, and our forces are determined to eliminate this terrorist organization,” Rashid Fouad, an American volunteer in the SDF ranks, told ARA News at the battlefront.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launched the Euphrates Wrath Operation on 6 November, with support from the US-led coalition. The operation’s long-term objective is the isolation and elimination of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Raqqa.

Meanwhile, the SDF-affiliated Syrian Democratic Council started on Monday working on the establishment of a civilian administration to run the city of Raqqa after ISIS expulsion.

According to the leadership of Syrian Democratic Council, it is important that a local civilian council runs the city of Raqqa in post-ISIS era.

“Such an administration could provide a good example for democratic change in Raqqa, especially that the city has been for years a de facto capital for the ISIS terrorist group,” Kurdish co-Chair of the Syrian Democracy Council Ilam Ahmed told ARA News. “The liberation of Raqqa would be a crucial and historical victory against ISIS.”

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units, Women’s Protection Units, Syriac Military Council, Raqqa Revolutionaries Battalion and Tel Abyad Revolutionary Brigade are participating in Euphrates Wrath Operation for Raqqa. These ground forces are being bolstered by the US-led coalition, which is providing air support and advice from US military experts.

Reporting by: Enwer Omar and Qehreman Miste | Source: ARA News 

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