A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) walks through the debris in the old city centre on the eastern frontline of Raqa on September 25, 2017. AFP / BULENT KILIC
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Bashar Hammoud thought he knew his native Raqqa like the back of his hand, but a monthslong offensive against Daesh (ISIS) has scarred the Syrian city so badly he can barely recognize it.More than three years after Daesh declared a self-styled "caliphate" across swaths of Syria and Iraq, the SDF's Arab and Kurdish fighters hold around 90 percent of its onetime de facto Syrian capital Raqqa.The Raqqa natives among them say it has been dizzying to hear neighborhoods they had known for years being called different names by people who lived under Daesh's iron fist.At the time, Meshlebi was living in a displacement camp north of Raqqa and decided to join the SDF's battle against Daesh."Raqqa was the Euphrates' bride," Khaled says nostalgically, describing nights sitting along the Euphrates River in the city's south with old friends.He fled Raqqa with his wife and children as Daesh overran the city and, after several weeks fighting alongside the SDF, entered his own neighborhood last week.
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