Syria Urges UN to Stop Civilian Killings by US-led Coalition

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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.

"Violations by [ISIL] do not lessen the global legal obligations of other warring parties to protect civilians", Amnesty's Rovera said.

But the US -led coalition, alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian regime, supported by Russian warplanes, have been responsible for many causalities in the "deadly labyrinth" of being fired upon from all sides in the city, Amnesty International said in a report issued Thursday.

More than two months since USA -backed forces launched a major offensive to reclaim ISIS' crown jewel in Syria, thousands of civilians remain trapped in the war-ravaged city of Raqqa.

Both Mattis and the commander of the USA -led coalition to defeat ISIS, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, pointed to the tendency of the Sunni jihadists to use civilians as human shields, as the battle to dislodge the group from its Syrian "capital" continues into its third month.

According to Fabrice Balanche, an expert on Syrian geography, the regime would have more than half of the country's territory under its control if it can drive IS out of the Badiya.

The coalition earlier this month acknowledged the deaths of 624 civilians in its attacks in Syria and Iraq since 2014.

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Smoke rises after an air strike during fighting between members of the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Syria August 15, 2017. "Knowing that IS use civilians as human shields, SDF and United States 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.

The UN estimates that up to 25,000 civilians may remain in the city but tens of thousands of others have already fled, risking IS sniper fire and mines.

"I have seen the reports of increased civilian casualties, and it is probably logical to assume that there have been some increases in civilian casualties because our operations have increased in intensity there", he said at a news conference in Baghdad on Tuesday. "We are now at the clock tower roundabout, and our guys are fighting in Mansur Street", he says. An ISIS propaganda video released in June 2015, after the capture of the Syrian city of Palmyra, revealed militants targeting Syrian government forces with US -made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles.

But as SDF forces advance in the third month of the battle for Raqqa city, grim reports emerged this week of civilians killed en masse by coalition airstrikes.

Another described how a dozen shells struck a residential area of single-storey houses in Daraiya on 10 June, killing at least 12 people across several homes, including a 75-year-old man and an 18-month-old baby: "The shells struck one house after the other".

"It was indescribable, it was like the end of the world - the noise, people screaming", one witness told Amnesty International of a recent bombardment.

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