07/04/2017, 11.30
SYRIA
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Raqqa, anti-Isis offensive: Alliance opens breach in the Old Town Walls

With the support of the US raids, Syrian Democratic Forces create a 25-meter gap. The goal is to speed up military operations to wrest the stronghold of Caliphate. Inside there are still 4,000 jihadists ready to fight. UN: fear for fate of civilians used as human shields.

Damascus (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Syrian Democratic Forces (Sdf), assisted by the United States, opened a 25-foot-high breach in the Old Town Walls at Raqqa, the stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) in the country, in a further step towards the defeat of jihadist militias. This is according to US military sources supporting the coalition's advance in fighting jihadist militias in Syria.

Arab-Kurdish forces, exploiting the coverage provided by US air raids, opened fire on two different areas of Rafiqah's historic walls at Raqqa. The city represents a strategic juncture for Daesh militaries [Arabic acronym for IS, former Isis], which today can count on the presence of some 4,000 militia in defense of the "capital of the Caliphate."

Since last week, the city, located on the northeast bank of the Euphrates River, is surrounded by soldiers from the Syrian Democratic Forces. The final offensive began on June 6th and achieved significant progress on the military front. According to coalition leaders, taking Raqqa's grip will deal a "decisive blow" to the Caliphate militias, even though the civilian population trapped in the fighting and the subject of the jihadist retaliation so far has had to pay the consequences.

Over the years, the area has become famous for the atrocities committed by Daesh against enemies, opponents and civilians. These include numerous public executions and sentences imposed by sharia, Islamic law.

UN sources report that at least 173 civilians died in June, in cross-fire between coalition and Daesh fighters. However, the estimate is only indicative and the number could be far greater. For this reason, the UN note goes on, "civilians should not be sacrificed on the altar of rapid military victory".

There are still as many as 100,000 people trapped in the battle and unable to flee. In addition, jihadists hinder civilian exodus and use them as human shields to defend themselves from coalition attacks.

In over  six years of conflict since March 2011 the Syrian conflict has killed more than 300,000 people. Those who have had to abandon their homes because of the war - including migrants and IDPs – have reached 11 million.

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