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Syrian army surrounds Islamic State enclave in central Syria


Since June 6, the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mix of Kurdish and Arab troops supported by a USA -led coalition, have pushed progressively deeper into the city - and Amnesty International says that as the fight for Raqqa has ramped up, so too has the number of civilians killed accidentally in coalition airstrikes. Islamic State fighters are threatening civilians attempting to flee with snipers and arrest. At least 30 civilians were killed in that campaign, it said. The narrow alleyways of Raqqa's old neighborhoods make it hard for military vehicles to pass, meaning a close quarters urban fight. The SDF is now focused on capturing Raqqa city from Islamic State.

While civilians in Raqqa city have been bearing the brunt of the fighting, villagers in IS-controlled areas south of the Euphrates have faced a separate onslaught as Russian-backed Syrian government forces launched indiscriminate airstrikes in the second half of July, killing at least 18 civilians and injuring many more.

Reuters gained a unique insight into the efforts to prevent these stitauions from escalating into greater conflict - their reporter was given a rare access to the U.S. Air Force's hotline station, inside the Qatar-based Combined Air Operations Area.

Amnesty released a report Thursday saying hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured since June, when an offensive began to recapture the IS stronghold.

Egeland says the U.N.is urging the humanitarian task force, including members of the coalition fighting to retake Raqqa, to do whatever is possible to help people escape the embattled city.

"There is not a two-way communication, and there seems to be a very deliberate policy of holding people, and using them as human shields". It also questioned the reliability of many reported casualty figures.

"The Russians have been nothing but professional, cordial and disciplined", Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the Iraq-based commander of the US -led coalition, told Reuters.


The letter further said, "The government of the Syrian Arab Republic calls on the Security Council to implement its resolutions on the fight against terrorism, especially Resolution 2253, and to immediately stop the crimes by the coalition against innocent civilians in Syria".

Mahmouda, a resident who fled the Daraiya area, told Amnesty International: "It was a awful situation ..."

A resident of Daraiya, west of Raqqa, told Amnesty International: "It was hell, many shells struck the area".

There has been a recent increase in the number of coalition air strikes on Raqqa.

Townsend challenged the notion that civilian casualties had increased "to some significant degree", while conceding that because operations have increased in intensity "it's probably logical to assume that there has been some increase in the civilian casualties".

According to reports UNICEF is receiving from inside Raqqa city, several thousand children continue to be trapped - caught in the direct line of fire.

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