On Saturday, the US-led coalition announced in an official statement that buses carrying some “people” will leave Raqqa city soon towards an unspecified area.
According to the statement, the deal to evacuate “people” was brokered by local Syrian tribes and the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) Raqqa Civilian Council.
There are little doubts that the “people” that the statement refers are likely Syrian ISIS members, their families and supporters. The statement does not say with which side the SDF reached the deal. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the only side that can negotiate something with the SDF in Raqqah is ISIS.
According to the US-led coalition, foreign ISIS fighters will not be allowed to leave the city. Moreover, all Syrian ISIS fighters will be “subject to search and screening” by the SDF before they leave. The US-led coalition stressed in the statement that it was not involved in the deal that’s aimed to “save innocent lives”.
“We do not condone any arrangement that allows Daesh terrorists to escape Raqqa without facing justice, only to resurface somewhere else. We remain concerned about the thousands of civilians in Raqqa who remain subject to Daesh cruelty,” US-led coalition Director of Operations Brigadier General Jonathan Braga said.
Many Kurdish sources denied the US-led coalition’s statement and said that no deal was reached with ISIS. These reports are likely a propaganda stunt to protect the public image of the SDF who has denied reaching any agreements with ISIS in the past.
However, the Hezbollah media wing in Syria, the US-based Al-Monitor news website and The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) all confirmed that a deal was reached between the SDF and ISIS. This for sure leaves no doubts.
Meanwhile, the SDF announced that it fighters captured al-Nahda district in the western part of Raqqa city on Saturday. The SDF also said that its fighters killed 23 fighters of ISIS while advancing in the district.
The SDF will likely impose its full control over the city in the coming days, because its believed that only few dozens of ISIS fighters will remain in Raqqa city after the deal is over.
Back on August 29, the US-led coalition blocked a deal between Hezbollah and ISIS to evacuate 300 ISIS fighters and 300 civilians from the Western Qalamoun region to the ISIS held-areas for days. Back than the US-led coalition said that it will not allow any ISIS fighters to be evacuated.