Amnesty Says Civilians Trapped In Raqqa under Fire ‘From All Sides’
Amnesty International said thousands of civilians trapped in the city of Raqqa are coming under fire “from all sides” as an operation by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by Coalition forces continue to dislodge Islamic State (ISIS) militants in the city.
Amnesty released a report on Thursday (August 24) calling on the warring parties to prioritize protecting civilians from hostilities and creating safe ways for them to flee the frontlines.
The organization said the civilians trapped in Raqqa, ISIS Syrian de facto capital, are in “grave danger” from the intense artillery shelling and more limited airstrikes by the Coalition, backing the SDF fighters in the battle.
“As the battle to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State intensifies, thousands of civilians are trapped in a deadly labyrinth where they are under fire from all sides,” Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International, who led the on-the-ground investigation, said.
“Knowing that IS use civilians as human shields, SDF and US forces must redouble efforts to protect civilians, notably by avoiding disproportionate or indiscriminate strikes and creating safe exit routes,” Rovera added, using another acronym for ISIS.
Amnesty further said the situation for civilians is worsening as the battle enters its final stage.
“Things will only get more dangerous as the battle reaches its final stages in the city center. More can and must be done to preserve the lives of civilians trapped in the conflict and to facilitate their safe passage away from the battleground,” Rovera said.
The SDF, an alliance dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes and Special Forces, have been fighting since June to clear ISIS from Raqqa city.
Advances in the multi-phased Raqqa offensive are proceeding cautiously however, officials say, as ISIS uses snipers, car bombs and booby traps. ISIS also forbids civilians to leave the area, prolonging the effort to flush the jihadists out.