Despite the ongoing destructive military campaign by the SDF and the coalition against Daesh in Al-Raqqa, it still has not been able to obliterate the presence of the organization in the city for four months now. Many civilians have been killed and many buildings have been destroyed and the SDF have taken more than 4000 casualties, apart from the wounded and those in critical conditions. Therefore, it was necessary to look for a way to end this suffering that has drained all the parties.
The negotiations about Al-Raqqa were first carried out in secret between dignitaries from Al-Raqqa, who are living outside, and some local Daesh commanders. They met with commanders from the coalition and the SDF in Ain Aissa in order to work on avoiding more casualties and destruction, according to a Raqqa24 source. The source added that they all agreed on some principal points which include allowing civilians and families of Daesh fighters to leave the city as well as allowing the departure of Daesh fighters from the city in batches without being attacked. It was agreed that they would be accompanied by some tribal dignitaries from Al-Raqqa to guarantee the execution of the agreement.
The source clarified that the SDF demanded from other parties to negotiate with Daesh in public, which was agreed upon. The negotiations between Daesh and the SDF reached the agreement to allow the safe departure of all those remaining in the besieged city, including Daesh fighters who would leave with their light weapons towards Daesh-held areas in Deir Ezzor on condition that the SDF would guarantee them not to be a target for the coalition airstrikes, Assad regime and the Russian aircraft, as it was the case for the Daesh convoy that left Al-Qalamon for Al-Bukamal.
The source said, ‘The agreement was supposed to be executed two days ago, but when it was presented to the Americans, it was rejected sinec the latter asked to add new conditions, which include the handing over of foreign Daesh fighters to the SDF in return of letting their families leave the city. Concerning the remaining fighters in the besieged city, their fingerprints will be recorded and they will have to vow not to join any military faction, and they must be guaranteed by tribal dignitaries.
According to the source, there are around 150 fighters who are still in the city, most of whom are locals from Raqqa who joined Daesh ranks. Daesh refused to adhere to the American conditions, though its remaining fighters in Raqqa were willing to agree on them. The conditions have motivated the foreign fighters to destroy what is left in the city with VBIEDs, which will cause another catastrophe.
The above points resulted in the failure of the negotiations, which is embodied in the return of the heavy airstrikes against the besieged city. However, in a rapid development, it was said that all parties have accepted the agreement and that some buses are gathering in the Assadiyah area north of Raqqa to begin the implementation of the agreement tomorrow, which coincides with he depature of some families from the city after they were given the permission by the organization.
One of the civilians who have left the city says that there are around 7000 civilians still inside the city, who are reliant on food left in houses belonging to the civilians who survived the ongoing war, adding that Daesh did allow to these families to take food from the houses. He added, ‘ There are hundreds of dead bodies trapped under the rubble and there are some neighbourhoods who were completely destroyed, in addition to the smell of death that is found in every corner. When the aircraft begin bombing the city, we hide in a small distance because we fear the fact that our houses would collapse. Concerning the casualties of Daesh, he said that the real number cannot be known, though it is possible to say that the organization has lost a large number of its manpower.’