A UN commission has warned that the intensified offensive by US-led forces on the Syrian city of Raqqah has led to about 300 civilian deaths and displacement of 160,000 others.
The so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by the US artillery and airstrikes, have launched an offensive to capture the city from Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
“We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqah, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry into the Syrian conflict Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said on Wednesday.
Pinheiro did not give an estimate for civilian casualties in the city, but Karen Koning Abu-Zayd, another member of the commission, said the body has documented about 300 civilian deaths from the airstrikes.
“We have documented the deaths caused by the coalition airstrikes only and we have about 300 deaths, 200 in one place, in al-Mansoura, one village,” she said.
This is while the Pentagon has described the operation, which comes with no UN Security Council mandate or the Syrian government authorization, as a limited-scale one.
The US airstrikes have for several occasions targeted pro-government troops in Syria over the past few weeks, with Washington claiming that the attacks were aimed at protecting its SDF allies.
Also on Wednesday, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern over the massive civilian casualties in Raqqah
The group lashed out at the US forces for allegedly using white phosphorous munitions as part of the offensive, warning that the chemical may cause serious injuries and trigger fires when used in residential areas.
The US-led coalition insists that, as a matter of policy, it cannot publicly discuss the use of specific munitions, but admits to using white phosphorus in its operations.
Meanwhile, Syrian army soldiers backed by fighters from the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah have managed to liberate several key towns in the desert area west of Raqqah from Daesh.
Different foreign-backed terrorist groups have been wreaking havoc in Syria since 2011. Over the past few months, Syrian forces have made sweeping gains against Takfiri elements, who have lately increased their acts of violence across the country following a series of defeats on the ground.