As Raqqa begins undergoing rehabilitation following its liberation from ISIS last week, Syrian forces have seized control of a city in the central province of Homs from ISIS fighters who took control of the city earlier this month.

On the ground in Syria (Archives)

On the ground in Syria (Archives) Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Following Raqqa’s victorious liberation from ISIS earlier this week, today (Saturday), the Syrian army and Assad’s allied forces recaptured the city of al-Qaraytan in Homs, after ISIS fighters reportedly seized control of the city earlier this month.  

Syrian television networks reported that the city was captured after the ISIS fighters, which had infiltrated al-Qaraytan earlier this month in a counter-attack in eastern Syria, were eliminated.  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that some of the ISIS militants had surrendered, while others retreated from the heavy fighting.

The town of al-Qaraytan lies approximately 60 miles from the ancient city of Palmyra, and nearly 180 miles from Deir al-Zor city, the current focal point for Syrian government’s battle against ISIS.

Meanwhile, reconstruction efforts continue in Raqqa, as estimates indicate that it will take a very long time before life in the city returns to normal. Raqqa, which has not only become a heap of rubble, is also covered in live explosives scattered throughout. About 270,000 people were displaced from the city during the war and have nothing to return to.

Victory in Raqqa

Victory in Raqqa Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

After four months of heavy fighting, many buildings were destroyed in the city. “We cannot do anything before we neutralize the mines,” said local councilman Ibrahim al-Hassan. “The second stage is restoring the water and electricity networks, after which we will be able to deal with the schools.” Aid organizations and the UN said that the city’s reconstruction could take months and is expected to be very expensive and complex.

UN: 80% of Raqqa is uninhabitable

UN: 80% of Raqqa is uninhabitable Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Already in September, the UN estimated that over 80% of the city was uninhabitable. “Local sources reported a severe shortage of food, medicine, electricity, drinking water and basic goods,” said Linda Tom, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In addition, there is fear of a disease outbreak due to unburied bodies.

The European Union has pledged 3.5 million euros for the city’s reconstruction efforts, and the US coalition has pledged to help with several projects. Donors, local players and NGOs are working on a rehabilitation plan but the price or the source of the funding has not yet been decided.