A US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters is poised to begin a new offensive in the Syrian city of Raqqa shortly, a commander has told the BBC.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) militants in the group’s former stronghold for nearly four months.
Reports that IS are withdrawing from the city are untrue, SDF sources said.
But in a statement to news agencies the alliance said about 100 IS fighters had surrendered.
There was speculation that Syrian fighters would be allowed safe passage along with their families and injured.
But negotiations between Raqqa leaders and IS fighters failed after the latter insisted on leaving the city in a secured convoy with their light and medium weapons.
However, another report suggested that only foreign fighters remained in Raqqa after Syrian members of IS were allowed to leave with their families for unknown destinations.
Raqqa became the de facto capital of the IS “caliphate” whose creation was proclaimed by IS three years ago, attracting thousands of jihadists from around the world.
Enforcing an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, the group used beheadings, crucifixions and torture to terrorise residents who opposed its rule.
Nouri Mahmoud, a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia which is part of the SDF, told Reuters news agency: “The battles are continuing in Raqqa city.
“Daesh [IS] is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated.”
An activist group that reports on Raqqa, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said on its Facebook page that dozens of buses had arrived in Raqqa overnight, after travelling from the northern Raqqa countryside.
Civilians have been making dangerous journeys of their own to leave the embattled city.