Sunday, 25 June, 2017

More than 40000 children at risk in Syria's Raqqa

Shaer gas field Syrian Army Drives Daesh Out of Gas Field Near Palmyra Sputnik Dmitriy Vinogradov
Darrell Mcdonald | 10 June, 2017, 17:38

Russia's Ministry of Defense reported on Friday that pro-government forces circled around US military advisers in eastern Syria to reach the Iraqi border, dealing what could be a major blow to the declared USA mission to defeat Islamic State militants in the desert region.

The SDF made notable gains in the eastern and western flanks of the city, amid talks of some withdrawal of IS commanders toward the Syrian Desert, where the army is fighting to eliminate IS and to keep them from reaching other destination near the ancient city of Palmyra.

Tens of people were injured and the death toll could rise higher, he warned.

The US-led coalition said it had carried out 22 strikes near Raqa on Wednesday, hitting IS fighting positions and vehicles as well as a weapons cache and a training camp.

Al-Meshleb was the first neighborhood in Raqqa city entered by SDF fighters.

Captured by the jihadists in 2014, Raqa has become synonymous with IS atrocities including beheadings and public displays of bodies, and also emerged as a hub for planning attacks overseas.

The number of reported civilian casualties in the coalition s strikes has swelled as the SDF offensive has intensified.

"Many are caught in the crossfire", UNICEF official Geert Cappelaere said, urging all parties to give safe passage to those who want to leave.

An estimated 300,000 civilians were believed to have been living under ISIS rule in Raqqa, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria.

The anti-IS coalition have dropped leaflets on Raqqa, instructing civilians on how to flee the city safely.

The SDF - an Arab-Kurdish alliance formed in 2015 - launched its campaign to capture Raqa in November and chipped away at IS territory around the city's north, west, and east.

Elsewhere on Thursday, US forces shot down a pro-regime drone in southern Syria after it fired at US-led coalition forces, said coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon. "So in any areas they see advances, they are using the civilians".

Talal Sillo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led SDF said Tuesday that the "great battle" had begun.

"They are taking all sorts of measures because they know losing Raqqa is the beginning of the end for Daesh", he said, using another common name for the group.

Iraqi forces backed by the coalition are battling IS in Mosul too.

The development, if true, would mean Russian-backed pro-government forces have blocked the path of US -backed opposition forces advancing north along the Iraqi-Syrian border, in the direction of the ISIS strongholds of Boukamal and Deir el-Zour, on the Euphrates River in eastern Syria.

The US-led coalition said the drone was downed after it fired at coalition forces near the Al-Tanaf garrison, where anti-IS Syrian rebels are being trained.

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