In the early dawn of 5 July, a 200-strong force of anti-Isis fighters launched a surprise attack on the Old City of Raqqa, which is the last big urban centre held by Isis anywhere in Syria and Iraq. Recruited mostly from survivors of a tribe that Isis massacred three years ago, the five-man assault teams, into which the attackers were divided, at first made quick progress and reached a well-known local mosque in the Old City called Othman bin Affan. But Isis is still a formidable force, using expert snipers, suicide bombers and great numbers of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to inflict casualties. Abu Imad al-Sheity, the commander of the anti-Isis group, told The Independent in an interview by phone from the front line, that “the Daesh [Isis] militants learned that the local civilians were telling us the position of their snipers. They targeted them and killed dozens. It was a horrible massacre.” The UN says that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 civilians still left in Raqqa.
Battle for Raqqa: Fighters begin offensive to push Isis out of Old City