Amnesty: “Things will only get more dangerous as the battle reaches its final stages”


The UN has called for a pause in the Kurdish-led offensive, supported by US artillery and airstrikes, on the ISIS-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

With hundreds of civilians killed by the American attacks, the UN is seeking a pause so some of the remaining 20,000 people in Raqqa can leave.

The Syrian Democratic Forces entered the city at the start of June and now holds about 60%. However, its advance has been slowed for weeks by stiff Islamic State resistance.

Jan Egeland, the head of UN humanitarian operations in Syria, put the blame on ISIS on Thursday: “Now is the time to think of possibilities, pauses or otherwise, that might facilitate the escape of civilians, knowing that Islamic State fighters are doing their absolute best to use them as human shields.”

But he added, “People that come out cannot risk air raids.”

And Amnesty International also focused on the US attacks, which have killed almost 1,000 civilians in and near Raqqa since March, as it said residents face a “deadly labyrinth” with fire from all sides.

Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response advisor, summarized:

Things will only get more dangerous as the battle reaches its final stages in the city center. More can and must be done to preserve the lives of civilians trapped in the conflict and to facilitate their safe passage away from the battleground.

In just over a week, 170 civilians have been killed by airstrikes, according to residents and activists. However, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis maintained on Tuesday, “We are the good guys and the innocent people on the battlefield know the difference.”

See Syria Daily, August 23: Civilian Death Toll from US Bombing Rises in Raqqa

Civilians have also been slain by SDF assaults, ISIS fire, and Russian airstrike supporting pro-Assad forces to the south of Raqqa.

Video and Pictures: Demonstrations in Idlib Province Calls for Civil Administration

Footage of demonstrations in Kafranbel in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, calling for civil administration and evacuation of armed groups from the town:

While the jihadist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has gained control of more territory in the province, it is facing widespread calls and rallies to accept civilian authority. HTS said this week that it is now in discussions in some areas over the issue.

A rally in Saraqeb challenging HTS:

SARAQEB 25-08-17

A demonstration in Maarat al-Num’an against the Assad regime:


And in Azaz:

AZAZ 25-08-17

Rebels Set Conditions for Release of Captured Regime Pilot

Rebels have set conditions for the release of a regime military pilot captured last week after his plane crashed in southeastern Syria.

Said Saif, director of the media office of the Ahmed al-‘Abdu Forces faction, said they would release Ali al-Helou in return for the freedom of Lt. Col. Hussein al-Harmoush and dozens of detained women.

Harmoush defected from the regime military in 2011 to become one of the founders of the Free Syrian Army. He was abducted by regime agents in September 2011 in southeastern Turkey and returned to Damascus.

Saif said the Assad regime initially approved the exchange, but rebels are awaiting confirmation that Harmoush is alive as well details on the timing of the exchange.

The media official said the Assad regime had bombed rebel positions several times in an effort to reclaim Helou, but the raids were unsuccessful and the pilot was “transferred to a safe place”.

Ceasefire Talk Rises After Prisoner Swap Near Damascus

In an omen for a possible lasting ceasefire near Damascus, the rebel faction Jaish al-Islam and the Assad regime have exchanged prisoners.

Jaish al-Islam released 11 regime troops. In return, 36 political detainees — including 14 children and 10 women —
were freed.

Jaish al-Islam said earlier this week that it will accept a Russian-brokered “de-escalation zone” in the East Ghouta area, provided the regime halts attacks, allows aid deliveries, and releases detainees.

Despite Russian proclamations of a vaguely-defined zone since early August, pro-Assad forces have continued their assault on Jobar in northeast Damascus and on the nearby suburb of Ein Tarma.