Over 10,000 civilians escape Raqqa city, arrive in SDF-held areas


Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seen in the northern countryside of Raqqa after launching a new anti-ISIS campaign to liberate Raqqa governorate. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

More than 10,000 civilians displaced from the ISIS-held Raqqa city arrived on Thursday to areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after the SDF captured two more villages.

“Over 10,000 civilians came from the city of Raqqa and Tabqa, after liberation of the village of Al-Abbara & Tel Jerbo,” said Jesper Söder, a Swedish volunteer with the Syrian Democratic Forces.

In the meantime, the newly created Raqqa Civilian Council called for international aid.

“The Council has set up several camps and is responsible for managing them. But the number of displaced people who have reached the safe areas has exceeded 10,000 the past few days. Therefore, we in the Civilian Council of Raqqa appeal to the international community, humanitarian organizations and the UN organizations to carry out their responsibility,” the council said in a statement on Thursday.

The Raqqa Civilian Council warned that there is a need for more support now and there is a threat of the spread of diseases, this while the people of Raqqa pay the price of facing these ‘terrorist groups on behalf of the world’.

Egid Ibrahim, a representative of the Kurdish humanitarian organization the Kurdish Red Crescent, warned in an interview with ARA News that this could result in a disaster and that the local self-administrations of Rojava are already hosting thousands of IDPs and refugees from Mosul, Deir ez-Zor, al-Bab, Shahba areas, Sinjar, Raqqa and Aleppo in several camps.

“We have some organizations but they are not supporting like we want it to be. The UNCHR and UNICEF are supporting some IDPs from Manbij and Raqqa, and some other organizations, which I cannot mention their names. But their capacity is limited, maybe 10 per cent. The Rojava Self-Administration in these areas is trying to support all these IDPs and refugees,” he said.

“It is difficult to receive all these IDPs, especially since there is a siege on Rojava, all the borders are closed, and we have this problem now,” he added.

“The SDF-led operation is closing in on Raqqa city, so we expect to have more IDPs, and after the liberation we also need support because Raqqa is a big city and has been for 3 to 4 years under Daesh [ISIS]. It needs a lot of aid and help to recover,” Ibrahim stated.

Macer Gifford, a former British volunteers with the YPG and an anti-ISIS campaigner, told ARA News there is more need for humanitarian support to reduce the casualties. “When I was in Manbij, the YPG [a leading faction of the SDF] gave as much as food as possible to civilians, we didn’t have anything on us,” he said. “I saw thousands of civilians in Manbij asking for food.”

Gifford said he has sent many messages to UK officials and the British government to ask for humanitarian aid for northern Syria. “We got to make civilians feel, when the SDF comes, there is support for them, shelter, and aid,” he said. “But the focus is not on the SDF [in the UK], but mostly on Brexit, and Donald Trump,” he told ARA News.

According to Gifford, there should be more pressure on Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq from the West to allow aid in Rojava–Northern Syria. “The aid can be vetted and searched, it’s just to give shelter, and food. There should be unlimited access for aid to the country. And now we also got American and Russian bases and air fields, to which aid can be directly flown into the country in cargo planes and unloaded,” he added.

“There are large refugee camps and thousands of refugees, and they need aid. What seems to be happening that politics is stopping significant aid to hundreds of thousands of people,” Gifford told ARA News.

In September 2016, the U.S.-led coalition delivered 200 metric tons of food that was provided to about 2,400 families through the Manbij Organization for Relief and Development.

Gifford said while the West spends millions of pounds on aid for refugees outside Syria, not a dime or grain of rice is being sent to anyone inside Northern Syria.

“Unless, it’s the UN that sends huge amounts of aid to a dictator [Assad] who uses it as a weapon of war against the people, this while the YPG [People’s Protection Units] and SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] give aid to all communities in Syria,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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