ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Coalition air strikes supporting the US-backed forces’ assault on Raqqa are causing a “staggering loss of civilian life,” United Nations war crimes investigators said on Wednesday.
Spearheaded by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the offensive to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State’s (IS) de facto capital and main stronghold in Syria, began a week ago.
The SDF have already seized territories to the north, east, and west of the city.
“The intensification of air strikes [have] resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry told the Human Rights Council.
However, no figures were provided for civilian casualties in Raqqa.
Analysts had previously expressed concerns regarding US President Donald Trump’s new “annihilation campaign,” unveiled by the Pentagon in May.
The US announced it would go after the insurgent group in a more aggressive manner, encircling and killing as many members as possible as part of a shift in previous tactics allowing IS fighters to escape.
The change raised the possibility of greater civilian casualties and further large-scale displacement.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch published a statement expressing concerns about the use of white phosphorous by US-backed forces or coalition against IS in Mosul, saying it “endangered civilians when used in populated areas.”
“The imperative to fight terrorism must not, however, be undertaken at the expense of civilians who unwillingly find themselves living in areas where [IS] is present,” Pinheiro added.
Fears arose ahead of the Raqqa offensive as monitoring groups noticed a rise in the civilian death toll since Trump came into power.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany