Executive Summary for August 24th

We review the key developments in Syria, including a new report underlining civilian casualties in Raqqa, claims that the SDF has captured 60 percent of Raqqa and reports that ISIS is seeking safe passage from the Lebanese border to eastern Syria.

Published on Aug. 24, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Amnesty: Civilians in Raqqa Under Fire From All Sides

Airstrikes and artillery attacks launched by the U.S.-led coalition on the city of Raqqa have killed hundreds of civilians over the past three months, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

The Syrian government and its Russian allies have also launched “indiscriminate air bombardments against towns, villages and displaced people’s shelters full of civilians” just south of Raqqa, on the southern bank of the Euphrates River, the rights group said in a report.

“Civilians are thus trapped in the city, under fire from all sides, as the fighting intensifies.”

Since the start of a campaign against the so-called Islamic State in June, coalition warplanes have pounded militant positions in Raqqa, killing more than 480 people, including 119 children, according to Airwars, an organization that tracks civilian casualties from international airstrikes in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

On Monday, airstrikes launched by the U.S.-led coalition killed at least 42 civilians, including 12 women and 19 children. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday that humanitarian staff in Syria are “deeply concerned by unconfirmed reports of a high number of civilians killed by airstrikes in Raqqa City.”

Amnesty called on all parties in the conflict to take feasible precautions to minimize harm to the 10,000–25,000 civilians estimated by the U.N. to remain trapped in what Amnesty described as a “deadly labyrinth.”

SDF and U.S. forces must redouble efforts to protect civilians, notably by avoiding disproportionate or indiscriminate strikes and creating safe exit routes,” Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International, said.

SDF Controls More Than Half of Raqqa

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have captured more than half of the territory previously held by so-called Islamic State militants in the city of Raqqa, a war monitor reported on Wednesday.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that the Kurdish-led force has captured 60 percent of the embattled northern city since launching an operation against ISIS militants in June.

The SOHR said that SDF forces have breached the city center and are currently locked in fierce battles with ISIS militants in the area.

SDF forces encircled ISIS militants in central Raqqa last week after fighters moving from the east of the city joined up with their counterparts advancing from the west. The Washington-backed group is now closing in on militant pockets in the center of the city.

ISIS Seeks Lebanon Evacuation Deal: Report

ISIS militants entrenched in a mountainous section of the Lebanese–Syrian frontier are purportedly looking to secure safe passage into Syria, Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reported Thursday.

Citing an anonymous “security source,” the Lebanese daily said that ISIS militants are seeking negotiations with Hezbollah to secure safe passage from the Lebanese border to the ISIS stronghold of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria.

Syria Deeply could not independently verify these claims.

ISIS militants have suffered a string of defeats this week as Lebanese troops push ahead with a military campaign that aims to expel the militant group from its last pocket on the border. The Lebanese army has captured more than two-thirds of the militants’ territory since the operation began on Saturday and has reportedly killed dozens of fighters.

Earlier this month, Hezbollah struck an evacuation agreement with al-Qaida-linked militants formerly based along the Lebanese frontier, granting them safe passage into rebel-held parts of northern Syria.

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