A U.S.-led coalition in Syria announced an agreement to evacuate civilians from the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Colonel Ryan Dillon shared the statement outlining the agreement “designed to minimize civilian casualties” by staging a convoy of evacuation vehicles subject to search and screening by a U.S.-backed ground force.
Dillon noted that the coalition was not directly involved in the deal brokered by the Raqqa Civil Council and local Arab tribal elders.
The deal comes after about 100 IS fighters surrendered in Raqqa, as the coalition claimed control of 85 percent of the Syrian city.
“This is consistent with the trend we have seen in the past month, both in Syria and Iraq; a good number of ISIS fighters are giving up,” Dillon said.
About 300 to 400 IS fighters reportedly remain in the area.
During the last week, about 1,500 civilians managed to safely flee to locations controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces as the deal looked to allow forces and the coalition to focus on combating IS soldiers in Raqqa with decreased risk of civilian casualties.
The evacuation deal “purportedly” excludes foreign fighters and Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga said the coalition is concerned about IS fighters, who he referred to by the Arabic acronym Daesh, fleeing the area.
“We do not condone any arrangement that allows Daesh terrorists to escape Raqqah without facing justice, only to resurface somewhere else,” he said. “We remain concerned about the thousands of civilians in Raqqah who remain subject to Daesh cruelty.”
By Daniel Uria