At least 3,250 people were dead, more than a third of them civilians, have lost their lives ever since militants from US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces, have announced the capture of Raqqa after a five-month operation to drive out Daesh ISIS/ISIL militants.
“Hundreds of SDF fighters, waving yellow flags, are now entering the city of Raqqa. They have killed dozens of fighters. They are deploying more troops in the city to try to clear mines, explosives,” Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra said.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello said, Clearing operations were now under way to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines.
The fall of Raqqa, where Daesh staged euphoric parades after its string of lightning victories in 2014, is a potent symbol of the jihadist movement’s collapsing fortunes.
Daesh has lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq this year, including its most prized possession, Mosul. In Syria, it has been forced back into a strip of the Euphrates valley and surrounding desert.
According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, since the start of the operation, more than 900 civilians have been killed in the violence, including at least 570 in coalition air raids.
Destroyed and depopulated, Raqqa also faces an uncertain political future. The US and SDF have pledged to hand over the city to civilian rule, but the shape and political make-up of this civilian entity remain unclear. Various ethnic, tribal and geopolitical factors will complicate the handover.
Musafa Bali, a spokesman for the SDF, said 22 Daesh militants were killed in the advance on the hospital.
On Monday, the Kurdish-led SDF captured Paradise Square, where Daesh used to perform killings and decapitations, forcing local residents to watch after summoning them with loudspeakers.
The city of Raqqah, which lies on the northern bank of the Euphrates River, was overrun by Daesh terrorists in March 2013, and was proclaimed the center for most of the Takfiris’ administrative and control tasks the following year.