UN relief wing voices concern about civilians caught in crossfire in Syria’s Raqqa

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This image released by Islamic State-affiliated Aamaq news agency in March 2017 shows civilians in Raqqa, Syria. As U.S.-backed forces bear down on the de facto capital of the Islamic State group, Raqqa’s estimated 300,000 residents are living in terrified uncertainty over where is safe, caught between airstrikes and IS militants who have trapped them as human shields.

Geneva (UN) – The United Nations humanitarian wing is deeply concerned about the safety and protection of the thousands of civilians inside Raqqa city, many of them women and children, who are caught in the crossfire of the ongoing conflict, a UN spokesperson said today.

“The humanitarian community is assisting displaced people – and host communities – in at least 46 sites, camps or areas of high concentration of internally displaced people in the area, and they are reaching over 263,000 people with some form of assistance in July,” Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at the regular Headquarters press briefing in New York.

He added that assistance includes various types of food, including daily rations of bread, medicines and medical supplies, as well as nutrition assistance.

The offensive to retake Raqqa city from the Islamic State (ISIS) extremist group began two months ago. Ground fighting and airstrikes in and around the city have led to mass displacement and a deterioration of the humanitarian situation inside the city.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 10,000 to 25,000 people remain trapped in the city, although exact figures remain difficult to verify due to the situation on the ground.

“Access to Raqqa is not currently possible for the UN, due to the fighting on the ground,” Mr. Dujarric said, reminding all military actors of their obligations to protect civilians and ensure humanitarian access, in line with international humanitarian law.

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