ISIS appears to be using Raqqa civilians as “human shields” in Raqqa city where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are waging a large-scale offensive aimed at retaking the city.
The SDF, backed by the International Coalition, said they had launched their final assault on Raqqa against ISIS extremists, suggesting that by the end of this week clashes will end and the city will be fully liberated.
The Raqqa liberation offensive started on the 6th of June 2017 after a months-long campaign to isolate the city against the north bank of the Euphrates.
Raqqa was the first major Syrian city to fall to ISIS’ hands as it declared a caliphate and rampaged through Syria and Iraq in 2014, becoming an operations center for attacks abroad and the stage for some of its darkest outrages.
Meanwhile, as the SDF claim that they took 90% of the city, an SDF spokesman says some ISIS fighters appear to be withdrawing from the province’s capital, using civilians as human shields. Others have been allowed to leave after a deal was brokered by tribal leaders on Saturday.
According to a recent UN report on Raqqa, around 8000 civilians are still stuck under ISIS control in what’s left from the city of Raqqa, while other reports and field witnesses are claiming that people were being killed for refusing to comply with ISIS orders or while trying to flee the ISIS-controlled areas.
ISIS’ depraved and desperate solution to stop the loss of its territories is to use the presence of civilians to deny military forces the ability to conduct airstrikes and shelling without risking the deaths of innocents. It is reported that the militants are holding hundreds of civilians captive in the National Hospital and the Raqqa City Stadium in the city centre alone.
The tactic of using civilians as human shields has been incorporated into ISIS’ military strategy on several occasions in both Iraq and Syria. This tactic has normally been implemented on occasions when the terrorist group has been on the back foot and under intense military pressure.