Intensified air strikes by the international anti-ISIS coalition on Raqqa are causing “staggering” numbers of civilian deaths as US-backed forces close in on the extremist group’s stronghold, UN war crimes investigators said on Wednesday.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned of the deteriorating situation of thousands of civilians being displaced from the city located in northern Syria.
Amid ongoing fierce fighting in and around Raqqa city, UNHCR called for “greater and sustained access so that we can reach tens of thousands of civilians who are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.”
“Relief items are being airlifted from Damascus to Qamishli – a costly and complex undertaking. Until now, there were no viable land routes available to move supplies,” the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.
Separately, Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern in a statement about the use of incendiary white phosphorous by the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria, saying the weapon endangered civilians when used in populated areas.
The use of artillery-delivered white phosphorus by the US-led coalition forces in Syria and Iraq raises serious questions about the protection of civilians, HRW said on Wednesday.
An estimated 400,000 people have been displaced from Raqqa, including about 100,000 who fled the city in May alone days after the US-led coalition and ground forces the coalition supports announced the battle to capture the city from ISIS. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)