United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for special consideration to be taken for civilians trapped in Raqqa, Syria, as U.S.-backed forces prepare to take action to remove Islamic State jihadists from the city.
Guterres said some civilians stuck in hard-to-reach areas have been deprived of food and medical aid for years and said he was “deeply alarmed” by the situation.
“Civilians continue to be killed, injured and displaced at a terrifying rate [and] places of refuge, such as hospitals and schools continue to be targeted,” he said.
Islamic State snipers are shooting at families trying to flee on foot or by boat across the Tigris River, as part of a tactic to keep civilians as human shields, according to the United Nations.
Guterres called on all sides of the conflict to allow humanitarian workers to reach the suffering civilians who are “trapped and face threats from every direction."
“It is critical for all parties [to the conflict] to facilitate improved humanitarian access to allow aid to reach those in urgent need of life-saving assistance without delay,” he said.
The U.S.-led coalition now controls four neighborhoods in Raqqa and is advancing around the city’s southern border in order to fully encircle the remaining IS fighters.
The coalition began its mission to liberate the city from IS control two weeks ago. IS has controlled the city since 2014.