The road to Raqqa is the narrow artery upon which the survival of the Syrian regime depends.

Along its route, from Damascus in the south to Aleppo in the north, it is lined with army encampments.

But where the road reaches the borders of the Islamic State, this secure corridor ends.

More: Syria: From the ruins of Aleppo, a new generation is rising

It takes a brave - or desperate - soul to travel the road beyond.

When you see them at the last government checkpoint, very few want to talk about life in the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State.

Raqqa, an Islamic State stronghold in northern Syria, is full of European fighters, ITV News has been told Credit: ITV News

But today we met one young woman with the courage to speak.

I can’t tell you her name or even tell you her job. She still has family in the town and fears for their safety.

It’s soon clear why.

We can't leave...there's no life. You are dead there.

A female resident of Raqqa
A driver who brought foreign fighters to Raqqa covers his face from the camera as he speaks to ITV News' John Ray Credit: ITV News

A driver who has brought a coachload of passengers from Raqqa, again insisting he masks his face before we roll our camera, tells me the town is full of foreign fighters. Many are Europeans.

At least 63 people - half of them civilians - were killed in air strikes by Syrian war planes targeting the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa yesterday Credit: ITV News

Close to where we speak, there there are the ruins of a Roman temple.

This land is marked by the monuments of ancient empires that have risen and fallen away

But the Islamic State is still growing stronger.

More: A city in ruins: The destruction of Aleppo is almost complete