Isis driven back to old Raqqa city

Thursday, 15 Jun, 2017

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said the city was subjected to intense airstrikes and shelling by the SDF and the usa -led coalition releasing a video that showed wide destruction in one of the neighborhoods.

Separately but relatedly, it appears that USA forces are using white phosphorous in areas in Iraq and Syria - including Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamist extremists, but one still populated with civilians.

"Coalition members and local forces should demonstrate concretely that the lives and rights of the hundreds of thousands of civilians in Raqa are a parallel priority in the offensive".

The U.N.'s refugee agency on Monday called for better access to northern Syria's Raqqa province, where US -backed forces are trying to drive the Islamic State group out of its self-styled capital, saying close to half a million people are in need of assistance.

The nonprofit group last month has shifted almost all of its resources to track claims of civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes, which are now reported to kill more civilians each month than those carried out by Russian Federation.

The SDF fighters have been shelling the area heavily, which may have killed civilians, and erected relatively few defences.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said its fighters captured the neighborhood of Romaniah after two days of fighting that left 12 IS gunmen dead, including a commander known as Abu Khattab al-Tunsi.

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One photo showed her as a smiling, happy, child in a Minnie Mouse dress, while the next showed her bloodied body wrapped in a green shroud.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the city and its surrounds since the SDF began to advance on the Daesh stronghold previous year.

It is unclear how many civilians are trapped there with them, but United Nations officials estimated that there are between 50,000 and 100,000. One man described snipers across the city's rooftops, shooting at anyone who tried to flee.

Meanwhile, ISIS is also close to losing its Iraq stronghold of Mosul, thanks to US-trained Iraqi army units.

"No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like Raqqa and Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians", said Steve Goose, arms director at the human rights organization. The U.S. military has also carried out at least three separate attacks against pro-government forces in Tanf since March. For Iran, securing a land route across the Syria-Iraq border to its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, is a key motivation.

Last Friday, the USA -backed SDF, which contains numerous elements linked to the terrorist PKK/PYD group, called on Daesh militants in Raqqa to surrender by the end of June. It also would provide US -backed forces with an important bargaining chip to use in the event of a final peace settlement for Syria. A despondent USA -backed rebel fighter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said Tuesday that the situation was "not looking good".