The Battle for Raqqa

In 2014, ISIS seized control of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, and it soon became the de facto capital of the ferociously expanding Islamic State. Beginning in 2016, and building on progress made against ISIS in Iraq, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance, started advancing on Raqqa. This summer, SDF troops supported by U.S. special forces fought their way into the sprawling city, accompanied by heavy coalition airstrikes on ISIS positions, reducing much of the city to piles of rubble. Thousands of civilians remain trapped in Raqqa, some used as human shields by ISIS militants, others too sick, injured, or terrified to venture into a warzone to escape—and according to Reuters, these civilians are paying a heavy toll in the final weeks and months of the battle.

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