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Syria: civilians trapped in Raqqa's 'deadly labyrinth'

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By Alasdair Sandford
Syria: civilians trapped in Raqqa's 'deadly labyrinth'

A “deadly labyrinth” trapping civilians who are coming under fire from all sides, is how Amnesty International describes the streets of Raqqa in Syria.

The human rights group says that hundreds have been killed and injured as the battle to recapture the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s main stronghold reaches a decisive phase.

Its new report , based on interviews with witnesses, blames ISIL booby traps and snipers, as well as the US-led coalition fighting alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The report says the SDF, which includes Arab and Kurdish militias, must take more care as they battle for Raqqa’s central districts. Their offensive with coalition forces to recapture the city from ISIL control began on 6 June.

“Knowing that IS use civilians as human shields, SDF and US forces must redouble efforts to protect civilians, notably by avoiding disproportionate or indiscriminate strikes and creating safe exit routes,” said Amnesty’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, Donatella Rovera.

It is thought that between 10,000 and 50,000 civilians remain trapped inside Raqqa, according to UN estimates.

Outside the city to the south, Russian-backed Syrian forces are accused of indiscriminate airstrikes against villagers, using internationally banned cluster bombs.
Their campaign began in mid-July.

Separately, in the large Badiya central desert region of Syria, ISIL is said to have been surrounded by government troops backed by Russian warplanes.

A monitoring group says fighting has been raging near Sukhnah, one of the main towns in the area.

Victory there is seen as key to the Syrian army’s hopes of retaking the province of Deir El-Zour, the last almost completely under ISIL control.