Syria Conflict: 100,000 Civilians Trapped in Raqqa

UN vehicles travel along a road lined with remnants of destroyed buildings, Homs, Syria. (file) Photo: UNICEF / UNI178367/ Tiku
UN vehicles travel along a road lined with remnants of destroyed buildings, Homs, Syria. (file) Photo: UNICEF / UNI178367/ Tiku

The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator has called for ensuring immediate and safe humanitarian access to save lives that are dependent on assistance in Syria.

He discussed attacks against aid workers in Syria, the removal of live-saving supplies from convoys, and bureaucratic impediments restricting access.

Briefing the Security Council on Thursday, Stephen O’Brien, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, also underlined the need for a sustained reduction in fighting to ease the burden on civilians and create an environment conducive for assistance.

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“Now is the time. Any delay will mean further death. The clock is ticking,” he warned.

The Syrian conflict, now into its seventh year, has taken a terrible toll on the country’s population: hundreds of thousands have been killed, more than 13.5 million left in need of humanitarian assistance, about 6.3 million displaced within the country, and some 5.1 million forced to flee as refugees outside its borders.

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The situation is particularly dire in Raqqa, where the Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by coalition forces, launched an offensive to take the city from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/Da’esh), and in the last days fully encircled it.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), at least 173 people have been reportedly killed in air and ground strikes.

Although about 25,000 have reportedly fled the city since the latest phase of operations, as many as 100,000 civilians could still be trapped there.

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Rakesh Raman