Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian adviser on Syria, urged the international community to do whatever is needed to allow citizens to flee from Raqqa, saying that right now, there is “no worse place on earth” than the parts of the city that are still being held by the ISIS extremist group.
Briefing journalists in Geneva on Thursday, Egeland said: “On Raqqa, our urging today from the UN side to the members of the humanitarian task force … is that they need to do whatever is possible to make it possible for people to escape Raqqa.”
“Now is the time to think of possibilities, pauses or otherwise that might facilitate the escape of civilians, knowing that Islamic State fighters are doing their absolute best to use them as human shields,” Egeland added.
Egeland urged members from the Humanitarian Task Force, including the members of the Coalition that is supporting the retake of Raqqa, to “do whatever is possible to make it possible for the people to escape.”
Amnesty International researcher Donatella Rovera said that as the fight for Raqqa intensifies, “thousands of civilians are trapped in a deadly labyrinth where they are under fire from all sides.”
“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 in report on Thursday.
“Those besieged in Raqqa face horrific brutality at the hands of IS – of that there is no doubt. But violations by IS do not lessen the international legal obligations of other warring parties to protect civilians.”
The United Nations on Thursday called for a humanitarian pause to allow an estimated 20,000 trapped civilians to escape from Raqqa, and urged the US-led coalition to rein in air strikes that have caused casualties.
Amnesty International on Thursday said that a US-led coalition campaign to oust ISIS from Raqqa had killed hundreds of civilians, and those remaining face greater risk as the fight intensifies in its final stages. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)