The United Nations on Wednesday said that dozens of civilians have been killed in the ongoing airstrikes on the city of Raqqa, voicing grave concern over the fate of as many as 100,000 civilians “effectively trapped” in the city. The UN also pointed to worrying reports of violations and abuses by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the province.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said that according to OHCHR data, conservative estimates indicated that at least 173 civilians have been killed in air and ground strikes since 1 June. Reports of civilian deaths continue to mount and escape routes are increasingly sealed off, he added.
Up to 100,000 civilians are effectively trapped inside Raqqa as the air and ground offensive intensifies, the top United Nations rights official said in a news release issued by his Office (OHCHR) on Wednesday.
“While some did manage to leave after paying large sums of money to smugglers, including smugglers affiliated with ISIL, reports continue to emerge of ISIL preventing civilians from fleeing. Those who attempt to flee also risk being killed by landmines or getting caught in the crossfire,” Hussein added.
Hussein pointed to “worrying reports of violations and abuses by the armed group, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in areas under its control, such as Tabqa city, including looting, abductions, arbitrary detentions during screening processes as well as the recruitment of children.”
The High Commissioner called on all forces battling ISIS in Raqqa, including international forces, to review their operations to ensure full compliance with international law, including taking all feasible precautions to avoid loss of civilian lives.
The international anti-ISIS coalition has admitted its forces have used white phosphorus in the bombing of Raqqa. Local activists said more than 28 civilians were killed and injured in the bombings.
SDF militias, backed by aerial cover from the international coalition forces, last month launched a major attack on Raqqa, ISIS’s stronghold in Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)