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UN: As Many as 50,000 Civilians Still Trapped in Syria's Raqqa

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - Smoke rises from a coalition airstrike on an Islamic State position, on the front line on the western side of Raqqa, northeast Syria, July 17, 2017.

The United Nations estimated Thursday that 20,000 to 50,000 civilians remained trapped in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the site of heavy fighting as U.S.-backed local forces seek to defeat Islamic State militants in their self-declared capital.

U.N. deputy humanitarian chief Ursula Mueller told the Security Council, "Their situation is perilous. There is no way for them to get out."

Mueller said the heavy fighting and airstrikes had killed or injured dozens of civilians and had displaced more than 30,000 people in July.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a group of Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighters, began their offensive to liberate the city June 6. They have received air and ground support from the U.S.-led coalition.

"Civilian movement out of the city remains extremely difficult due to the presence of mines and other unexploded ordnance, as well as shelling, sniper activities and airstrikes," Mueller said during a video briefing from Amman, Jordan.

"The U.N. and its partners are responding to those who have been displaced and we are ready to provide support in Raqqa city, as soon as access and security conditions allow," she said.

In its monthly report on the humanitarian situation in Syria, the U.N. said the situation inside the city was "reportedly dire." Civilians continue to be killed by air and ground strikes, food and medicine shortages persist, and markets and bakeries remain closed.

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