Backed Syrian fighters link up from east, west in Raqqa

Syria Raqqa

Volunteers from Raqqa join the Syrian Democratic Forces on Monday.

The SDF-linked Syriac Military Council (MFS) said on Tuesday that the rescued civilians were from Syriac and Armenian origins, adding that they are originally from Raqqa city in northeastern Syria. He spoke after Friday prayers in Istanbul.

The al-Qaeda-linked militant group, the Levant Liberation Committee, captured the crossing after battles with the ultraconservative Syrian rebel Ahrar al-Sham group last month. "(The threat) is security", he said.

International Organization for Migration spokeswoman Olivia Headon said the 602,759 returns between January and July was on track to surpass the figure of 685,000 returns for all of 2016.

Separate contingents of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ringing the Islamic State (IS) bastion of Raqqa have converged, dealing another sharp blow to the surrounded militants. She said however that the 2017 returns were less than the number of displaced this year: almost 809,000.

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But the force's progress has been hindered by IS which is fighting hard to hang on to the de facto Syrian capital of the "caliphate" it self-proclaimed in June 2014.

Deputy Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir said those 17 nationals, including teenagers, women and infants, had left Syria and reached Iraq's territory, Xinhua news agency reported.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they returned to "protect their assets" and one-quarter cited "improved economic conditions".

An estimated 10,000 to 25,000 people are stuck in the city, the Islamic State group's main stronghold, said United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who noted that "exact figures remain hard to verify due to the situation on the ground".

"The fighting is ongoing from room to room and from house to house", said Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media center.

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