Islamic State using civilians as human shields to impede SDF advance in Raqqa

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Displaced civilians from Deir ez-Zor arrive in Syria's Kurdish region of Rojava, after escaping ISIS atrocities. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

RAQQA – Radical group of the Islamic State (ISIS) is using civilians as human shields in Syria’s northeastern Raqqa province, in a bid to impede the ongoing progress by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), activists reported.

Backed by the US-led coalition’s air cover, the SDF has been advancing against ISIS militants in the northern countryside of Raqqa province over the past few days. 

“ISIS has forced hundreds of civilians to stay inside buildings in central Raqqa that used to be security centres for the radical group. Many people are locked inside those locations,” local sources told ARA News in Raqqa, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Several buildings of al-Hisba police and Sharia institutions have been filled with civilians in Raqqa city, according to media activist Salman al-Hamwi.

“The main goal is that the SDF-led shelling and US-led airstrikes kill as much civilians as possible. ISIS is trying to increase the civilian casualties to claim that the western-backed SDF are targeting peaceful people,” al-Hamwi told ARA News. 

Also, in the villages of Tal Shahin, al-Adriya and Mlehan north of Raqqa civilians were prevented from escaping their houses.

“Hundreds of villagers in Mlehan, Tal Shahin and al-Adriya are held hostage by ISIS militants, who are engaged in clashes with SDF forces in the vicinity of those villages,” SDF officer Habun Osman told ARA News on the phone.

“We are aware of such barbaric tactics by ISIS terrorists. We’re trying to avoid using heavy weapons at such fronts to prevent civilian casualties,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Kurdish-led SDF alliance recaptured four villages and towns in northern Raqqa–the de facto capital of the Islamic State. Subsequent to clashes with ISIS militant fighters, the SDF alliance liberated the villages of Qartaja, al-Fastah, Indebin and Matmasraja.

“The battle for northern Raqqa has started, and our advance will continue until we cleanse the entire province from ISIS,” Osman said.

The western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Tuesday afternoon launched an operation to capture the countryside of Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIS) group. 

“Cleansing these territories from ISIS starts now from the north of Raqqa,” Kurdish Defence Minister of the Rojava Auto-Administration told ARA News in Kobane. 

Operation for Northern Raqqa to Continue 

On Monday [May 30], the SDF recaptured new areas in the northern countryside of Raqqa after fierce clashes with militants of the Islamic State (ISIS). The western-backed SDF expelled ISIS from nine new villages north Raqqa, including Rumela, Haji Ali, Abu al-Safa, Jinf, al-Ahmer, Khishkhash Kibir, Naqut, Bir Ama and Khirbat Jamila. 

“Our forces made great gains north Raqqa today, after bombing tactical units of ISIS terrorists near Tabqa. Beside recapturing those nine villages, the SDF also seized control of three large farms from ISIS and destroyed two vehicles for the group,” SDF officer Habun Osman told ARA News. 

At least 15 ISIS militants were killed in Monday’s clashes. “The clashes are still ongoing, we may announce the liberation of new areas very soon,” the Kurdish officer said.   

The SDF is now engaged in clashes with ISIS at four separate battlefronts north of Raqqa–the group’s de facto capital. Clashes continue between the SDF and ISIS in the Ain Issa district, Brigade 93, al-Nakhil area and the vicinity of Tabqa town on the eastern bank of Euphrates. 

Dismantling Explosives 

Speaking to ARA News, SDF official spokesman Talal Silo said that their special teams are trying to dismantle explosives left by ISIS in every area after liberation. 

“The liberation of each village or town is only completed after it’s cleansed of all explosives and land mines left behind by ISIS terrorists,” Silo said. “Our specialised teams are working hard to dismantle all explosives in every liberated area.” 

According to Silo, dismantling explosives takes some time, which causes a considerable delay in the progress of the entire Raqqa operation. 

“However, we have already taken that into account. The safety of civilians is above all. The province and its people will once be liberated from this terrorist group. It may take time, but this day is definitely coming,” the SDF spokesman told ARA News.

Reporting by: Hozan Mamo and Ahmed Shiwesh

Source: ARA News 

Rojava hosting hundreds of civilians who escaped ISIS in Deir ez-Zor

Hundreds of Arab civilians escaped territory held by the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria’s eastern province of Deri ez-Zor, heading t0 Kurdish areas in Hasakah province, local sources reported. 

Most of the displaced families from Deir ez-Zor received shelter in Syria’s Kurdish region, also known as Rojava.

“We suffered a lot before getting here. ISIS militants have blocked all exits of Deir ez-Zor. We have been trying to leave the province for months, and fortunately we eventually found a smuggler who helped us escape,” Aicha, mother of two, told ARA News. “Now my children are safe, thanks to the people of Hasakah for hosting us despite their hardships.” 

Local organisations in Hasakah are trying to assist the civilians who escaped ISIS territory looking for a safe haven. 

“We are trying to provide these families with basic supplies and assistance. They’ve suffered a lot to get here,” civil rights activist Anwar Hamo told ARA News in Hasakah.

“Despite the limited resources, we are doing our best to help those people,” he added.

Speaking to ARA News, media activist Majid al-Abdullah said that Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) are searching the luggages of those coming from Deir ez-Zor before allowing them to enter the region.

“The YPG forces first check identities of the newcomers and their luggages at security checkpoints in the Salhi village [110km south of Hasakah] before allowing them to enter the province, this in a bid to prevent any infiltration by ISIS jihadis into Hasakah,” he said.

Most of the displaced civilians from Deir ez-Zor are hosted in the Mabroka Camp near Sere Kanye city of Hasakah province, where local NGOs provide them with basic supplies such as food and medicine.

“We hope that soon Deir ez-Zor would be liberated from ISIS terrorists, so that we can return home,” Ahmed, 43, told ARA News. 

Reporting by: Qehreman Miste 

Source: ARA News 

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