The Raqqa operation began last week with a ground assault by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group comprising Kurdish and Arab militiamen armed by the US and supported by coalition airstrikes.
They have already pushed into Raqqa from the east and west, reportedly approaching the old city walls. Citizens have reported intense combat in areas of the city.
Civilian deaths from US-led strikes on Isis surge under Trump administration
“We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the UN commission of inquiry, told the human rights council in Geneva.
Karen Abuzayd, an American commissioner on the independent panel, said: “We have documented the deaths caused by the coalition airstrikes only and we have about 300 deaths – 200 in one place, in al-Mansoura, one village.”
The civilian cost of the campaign was highlighted last week when footage emerged of coalition planes deploying white phosphorus in the city, which is home to tens of thousands of civilians, prisoners of war, enslaved Yazidi women, and a few thousand Isis militants