ISIS militants prepare the beheading of a Syrian man in Raqqa. File photo

ARA News

QAMISHLI – As the Kurdish-Arab alliance of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) report gains in northern Syria, the extremist group of Islamic State (ISIS) started using civilians as human shields in the group’s major town of al-Hawl east of Hasakah, in a bid to prevent the SDF advancement towards the strategic town, local sources reported on Monday.

The radical group prevents locals from leaving the town of al-Hawl, which is considered an ISIS key stronghold east of Hasakah. 

Al-Hawl surroundings and the southern countryside of Hasakah witness battles between the Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by air cover from the U.S.-led coalition forces, and ISIS militants. The SDF regained more than 40 villages and several gas stations in the past few days after clashes with the radical group in Hasakah province.  

Speaking to ARA News in Hasakah, the citizen Abdul Rahman Azzaal said that civilians in al-Hawl and its countryside were displaced as a result of the clashes in the region, but ISIS prevented dozens from leaving the town in a bid to use them as human shields during the battles. 

“Using civilians as human shields may constrain the U.S.-led coalition from bombing the ISIS-held areas,” he said. 

Azzaal explained that many of his relatives who live in the town “are still under the mercy of the terror group, which prevents them from leaving the embattled areas.”

“As SDF troops advance in Hasakah countryside, ISIS militants are trying to hide among civilians in order to avoid airstrikes and shells,” he added. 

Speaking to ARA News in Qamishli, civil rights activist Osama Ali said: “We have received information that ISIS terrorists are hiding among civilians, utilizing them as human shields at the battlefronts near al-Hawl and Shaddadi.” 

“The terror group uses this tactic to cause as much civilian casualties as possible, then the U.S.-backed operations may seem as crimes against humanity. The U.S.-led coalition and the SDF should be aware of such strategies by the ISIS barbaric group,” Ali said. 

“ISIS uses civilians as human shields to claim that the U.S.-led coalition is committing crimes against innocent people during airstrikes,” Ali added. 

The group also tries to use civilians to protect its ammunition depots in an attempt to obstruct the coalition’s airstrikes on those warehouses, according to local activists. 

Last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces started a large military campaign in the eastern countryside of Hasakah, particularly in vicinity of the ISIS-held town of al-Hawl near the border with Iraq. The SDF troops have liberated more than 35 villages and several gas stations from the radical group over nearly one week of operations. 

The SDF includes the Kurdish forces of YPG and YPJ; the Syriac Military Council; the Arab tribal group of al-Sanadeed; al-Jazeera brigades; Jaish al-Thuwar group and Burkan al-Furat battalion.

Reporting by: Ahmed Shiwesh 

Source: ARA News

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