by WorldTribune Staff, May 25, 2016
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is mimicking a tactic long used by Hamas in the Gaza Strip by using residents of its de facto capital in Syria as human shields.
The tactic is complicating efforts of a Kurdish-Arab alliance to drive the terrorists out of Raqqa, a Syrian activist said on May 24.
ISIL is “using the civilians as a cover. So you’ll find them in the same building. In a civilian building, you’ll find two or three apartments for ISIL fighters,” said Abdel Aziz al-Hamza, a co-founder of the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently group.
“They also talk of some schools as places to stay because these schools have basements, something underground, so they are protected from the airstrikes. And they are surrounded by civilian buildings.”
Hamas in Gaza used human shields extensively during its war with Israel in 2014.
“The civilians are besieged, they can’t leave their city,” said Hamza, who fled Raqqa in January 2014 and has been living in Germany.
“ISIL doesn’t let anyone leave the city. At the same time, life has become at least ten times more expensive in the city,” he said. “You will find huge lines of thousands of people waiting to get some food and they are getting this food from a relief kitchen which is not supported by ISIL.”
There are believed to be up to 50,000 civilians remaining in Raqqa.
The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have formed an alliance and launched an offensive on May 24 to liberate Raqqa.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that U.S.-led coalition airstrikes near Raqqa on May 24 killed at least 22 jihadists.