Moscow, Riyadh, Beirut- While eyewitnesses reported on Saturday a mass exodus of ISIS commanders and fighters from the Syrian town of Raqqa to Deir Ezzor, the Kremlin broke its silence concerning disputes with Iran in several issues related to the Syrian file, particularly the current disagreement between Moscow and Tehran regarding the participation of U.S. representatives in the Astana talks.
Eyewitnesses in the Raqqa city told the German news agency that since the start of 2017, hundreds of ISIS commanders and fighters were seen leaving the city in the direction of Deir Ezzor, adding that the majority of the ISIS members were Arab and foreign fighters.
An eyewitness in al-Thakana neighborhood in the Raqqa town told the German news agency that “early this month, ISIS commanders mainly nationals from Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey had already left around 30 houses located in the neighborhood of al-Thakana, carrying with them a small quantity of luggage, which seems to only include their clothes.”
The report said that ISIS commanders had also emptied tens of houses in the neighborhoods of al-Firdaous, al-Thakana and Harat al-Haramiya.
ISIS had controlled the Raqqa city at the start of 2014. There are around 500 thousand people living in the city, mainly from the areas of Palmyra, al-Sakhnah and the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib.
Meanwhile, Russia deployed six long-range supersonic Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers from Russian territory to strike ISIS targets in the Syrian governorate of Deir Ezzor, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Saturday, according to Russia Today.
The bombers hit militant base camps, weapon stockpiles, and armored vehicles, the report said.
On Saturday, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said during a television interview that Iran had opposed U.S. involvement at the Astana talks.
“But, Russia invited representatives from the U.S. administration to participate in Astana,” Peskov said.
The spokesperson ruled out that the talks would yield to any serious deals.
But, he said, “It’s clear that it will be impossible to constructively regulate the Syrian issue without the participation of the United States.”
The peace negotiations on Syria will take place on Monday in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir received at his office in Riyadh on Saturday General Coordinator of Supreme Commission for Negotiations of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Riad Hijab.