A Syrian activist says the Daesh Takfiris are using civilians in the Syrian city of Raqqa as human shields during their fight against an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters – began an operation on Tuesday to take control of areas in northern Raqqa from the militant group. The group’s offensive is supported by US warplanes.
The SDF fighters reportedly moved south from Tal Abyad town near the Turkish border toward Ain Issa, about 60km northwest of Raqqa.
The alliance’s commander Rojda Felat said the aim of the operation was to “liberate northern Raqqa” and people who live under the “oppression” of Daesh.
“The campaign is aimed at repelling terrorist attacks on Shaddadi, Tal Abyad and Kobane, ensuring the security of our people,” she added.
Some 22 Takfiris were killed in the offensive, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
This came as Abdel Aziz al-Hamza from the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently citizen journalist group said on Tuesday that Daesh militants use the civilians “as a cover. So you’ll find them in the same building. In a civilian building, you’ll find two or three apartments for ISIS (Daesh) fighters.”
Daesh militants also use “some schools as places to stay because these schools have basements, something underground, so they are protected from the air strikes. And they are surrounded by civilian buildings,” Hamza also said.
Hamza said Raqqa citizens are besieged and cannot leave the city. “ISIS doesn’t let anyone leave the city. At the same time, life has become at least ten times more expensive in the city.”
Thousands of people queue to get food from a relief kitchen in the city every day, Hamza also said.
The Tuesday operation is regarded as the most serious operations against the Takfiris in Raqqa since the city was proclaimed by Daesh as the de facto capital of the “caliphate” in 2014.