100,000 civilians trapped in Syria’s Raqa, says UN

GENEVA: As many as 100,000 civilians are trapped in Syria’s Raqa, as US-backed fighters battle to retake the city from the IS group, the UN rights chief warned on Wednesday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein voiced grave concern for the fate of civilians caught up in the anti-IS offensive in Raqa.
According to data collected by his office, at least 173 civilians have been killed by air and ground strikes in the city since June 1, but it acknowledged that that estimate was likely conservative, and the real death toll could be much higher. At the same time, “up to 100,000 civilians are effectively trapped as the air and ground offensive intensifies,” it said in a statement, adding that IS fighters were reportedly preventing people from fleeing. Civilians who try to leave also risk being killed by landmines or getting caught in the crossfire, it said.
“The intense bombardment of Al Raqa over the past three weeks has reportedly left civilians terrified and confused about where they can seek refuge as they are caught between IS’s monstrosities and the fierce battle to defeat it,” Zeid said in the statement.
“The large number of civilian casualties indicates that much more needs to be done by the parties to ensure protection of the civilian population,” he said.
The alliance, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), broke into Raqa on June 6 after a months-long operation to surround it and have since seized about a quarter of the city.
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