Syria: civilians trapped in Raqqa's 'deadly labyrinth'

Smoke rises after an air strike in Raqqa

Smoke rises after an air strike in Raqqa

Thousands of people have been trapped inside the city by ISIS and are being subjected to indiscriminate artillery and mortar bombardment by US-backed coalition forces and airstrikes with banned cluster bombs by Russian-backed government forces, the report says. "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".

"Things will only get more risky as the battle reaches its final stages in the city center", Donatella Rovera, Amnesty's Senior Crisis Response Adviser said the same day.

The United Nations urged worldwide powers to ease military operations around the Islamic State's de facto capital on Thursday amid intensifying concern about the safety of thousands of civilians trapped inside the northern Syrian city. "Knowing that the Islamic State uses civilians as human shields, the Syrian Democratic Forces and the USA forces must redouble efforts to protect civilians, notably by avoiding disproportionate or indiscriminate strikes and creating safe exit routes".

The United Nations said as many as 50,000 displaced persons may be in Raqqa, many sheltering in the city center or other areas controlled by IS, where they may be used as human shields by IS fighters.

But the number of civilian casualties caused by coalition air strikes appears to have mounted steadily, with dozens killed this week, Syrian opposition sources say.

In Baghdad, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said there had been "no military in the world's history" that has paid more attention to limiting civilian casualties. In June, the US military shot down a Syrian fighter aircraft, as well as two Iranian-made drones that threatened USA -led coalition forces.

It claimed the video was shot in Raqqa on Monday and showed victims of coalition air strikes, as well as extensive damage to residential areas.

The UN estimates that about 25,000 civilians may remain in the city risking IS sniper fire and mines in the city.

"Knowing that IS uses civilians as human shields, SDF and USA forces must redouble efforts to protect civilians, notably by avoiding disproportionate or indiscriminate strikes and creating safe exit routes", she said.

"On Raqqa, our urging today from the UN side to the members of the Humanitarian Task Force, including the members of the Coalition that is helping retake Raqqa, is that they need to do whatever is possible to make it possible for people to escape Raqqa", Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said at a press briefing in Geneva on Thursday.

"Whether you live or die depends on luck because you don't know where the next shell will strike, so you don't know where to run", one witness told the organization.

"The Russians have been nothing but professional, cordial and disciplined", Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the Iraq-based commander of the US -led coalition, told Reuters.

"Boats on the Euphrates must not be attacked, people who come out can not risk air raids when and where they come out", he continued.

The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 42 people, including 19 children and 12 women, were killed on Monday in strikes that destroyed buildings where families were sheltering.

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