No 'Worse Place On Earth' Than Syria's Raqqa

A Syrian girl walks through an empty ruined house in Raqqa earlier this month. Many civilians like her have no choice but to stay in the war-ravaged city despite the danger either because they've been trapped by ISIS fighters or because they don�

No 'Worse Place On Earth' Than Syria's Raqqa

He says civilians are suffering large casualties from heavy shelling by the Syria government and the constant air raids by the USA -backed coalition forces.

Amnesty International says the USA -led coalition's reliance on unguided missiles in its Raqqa campaign against Islamic State group militants is resulting in a significant toll on civilians.

Unlike other areas, such as Aleppo, where it has been possible to achieve a pause, he says the United Nations has no contact with Islamic State fighters who are deliberately using the civilians as human shields.

Any humanitarian pause, he said, would not involve IS which was doing its "absolute best to use [civilians] as human shields".

Rovera, of Amnesty International, told VOA that some of the casualties in populated areas were inevitable, but she said that the US -led coalition needed to be more accurate in targeting IS positions.

But the coalition acknowledged on Wednesday it has escalated its attacks on Raqqa, with more aircraft available since a US-backed operation successfully pushed ISIL from Mosul in neighbouring Iraq last month. Residents did not know how to save themselves.

'We know they were cluster bombs because it was not one big explosion in one place; there were many small explosions over a very large area.

SDF forces receive civilians fleeing Raqqa's southern Nazlat a-Shahadah district this week.

"IS wouldn't let us leave".

The coalition says it is very careful to avoid civilian casualties in its bombing runs against Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, and investigates any allegations.

It called on the coalition to establish a more transparent and independent reporting procedure.

"As the battle to wrest Raqqa from the Islamic State intensifies, thousands of civilians are trapped in a deadly labyrinth where they are under fire from all sides", Amnesty Senior Crisis Response Advisor Donatella Rovera said.

"They are not taking responsibility for the true scale of civilian casualties", Nicolas Davies, author of 'Blood on our Hands, ' about the invasion of Iraq, told RT.

"The Coalition has done, and continues to do, everything within our power to limit harm to non-combatants and civilian infrastructure".

"But violations by IS do not lessen the worldwide legal obligations of other warring parties to protect civilians".

The distance left to advance to the center of Raqqa city is "no more than hundreds of meters", SDF media official Mustafa Bali told Syria Direct on Thursday.

Amnesty International said the responsibility to safeguard civilians lies on all sides.

"But violations by IS do not lessen the worldwide legal obligations of other warring parties to protect civilians".

But UN humanitarian adviser on Syria Jan Egeland called Thursday for a humanitarian "pause" in Raqqa, saying that 20,000 civilians trapped by ISIS were at risk from airstrikes, shelling and attacks on boats on the Euphrates.

Jan Egeland urged the USA -led coalition to consider a humanitarian pause in the city, saying it is "time to try anything" to allow civilians to escape the clutches of the radical Islamic State group in Raqqa.

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