Hundreds of civilians killed since Raqqa offensive began, Amnesty says

Posted August 26, 2017

Earlier this week, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said USA -led coalition airstrikes killed at least 170 people over the previous week. Civilian casualties have been frequently reported since the beginning of the assault.

"The reality is we've worked through some very hard problems and, in general, we have found a way to maintain the deconfliction line (that separates U.S. and Russian areas of operation) and found a way to continue our mission", Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, the top U.S. Air Force commander in the Middle East, said in an interview with news agency, adding that sometimes the phone calls are "tense".

Amnesty noted that coalition forces present a danger to civilians on boats crossing the Euphrates River, one of the only viable routes for civilians trying to escape Raqqa.

Thousands of civilians trapped in Raqqa, northern Syria, are coming under fire from all sides as the battle for control of the city enters its final stage, Amnesty International said following an in-depth investigation on the ground.

But the rival campaigns have mostly stayed out of each other's way, and the US -led coalition has stressed it is not seeking war with Damascus.

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Despite numerous recent clashes between the United States forces and Russian allies in Syrian Civil War and other regional conflicts, the two countries' military leadership has been regularly communicating, US officials told Reuters News Agency.

He also dismissed Amnesty's report on civilian deaths, saying it is based on "scant information" and plays into the hands of the militants.

The taskforce includes several nations supporting the SDF, including the United States. The local forces are armed with 120 mm mortars.

Innocent civilians are being needlessly maimed and killed by all sides in the battle to retake Raqqa from ISIS, human rights charity Amnesty has warned. Resident testimonies indicate the missiles have targeted areas of hundreds of square meters, rather than specific targets "which, if true, would constitute not only disproportionate but also indiscriminate attacks".

According to the latest estimate by the US-led coalition, 624 civilians in Syria and Iraq are believed have been unintentionally killed by its strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014.

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There is something both military authorities and independent groups can agree on, though: ISIS has centered its strategy on using civilians for cover, exacerbating the violence and making the coalition effort fraught with risk.

The report said civilians also come under fire from the Russia-backed Syrian government forces fighting IS militants to the south of Raqqa.

At least 34 Syrian soldiers and 12 ISIL fighters killed in battle for Maadan town that set army back by 30km.

"By embedding themselves in civilian areas of Raqqa and using civilians as human shields, IS fighters are adding to their brutal track record of systematically and flagrantly flouting the laws of war", said Donatella Rovera.

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