A man walks along a street in the devastated Syrian city of Raqqa on January 9, 2018. Photo: Delil Souleiman | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Amnesty International called the result of the Raqqa campaign by the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) "horrific destruction and utter human devastation."
“Attacks by the US-led coalition not only killed hundreds of civilians but also displaced tens of thousands, who are now returning to a city in ruins, while many others languish in camps," said Amnesty's new Secretary General Kumi Naidoo.
A four-month campaign to clear the city of ISIS fighters began on June 6, 2017, and ended on October 17, 2017. Naidoo visited a year later.
“What I saw in Raqqa shocked me to my core. The city is a shell – bombed-out buildings, very little running water or electricity, the stench of death hanging in the air. That anyone is still able to live there defies logic and stands as testimony to the remarkable resilience of the city’s civilians,” he added.
The coalition partnered with the SDF, primarily led by the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), in the battle to take what ISIS described as the capital of its so-called "caliphate."
Following a nine-month, street-by-street battle to retake Mosul in Iraq, the coalition opted for a faster strategy for Raqqa. The administration of US President Donald Trump has been criticized for delegating more strike authority away from the Pentagon and to officers in-theater.
“All parties, including the Syrian government and their allies and the US-led coalition, must provide victims and their families full reparation..." stated Amnesty.
The US-led coalition has sought to transfer military power from the SDF to local military councils and governance to civil councils. Now, internally displaced people question return in northern Syria.
The coalition acknowledged the deaths of 1,059 civilians because of 29,826 airstrikes between August 2014 to June 2018.
“Throughout our air and ground campaigns, we have used deliberate targeting and strike processes to minimize the impact of our operations on civilian populations and infrastructure,” read a coalition statement in July.
The coalition then acknowledged 77 Raqqa civilians, including 24 children and 25 women, were killed in airstrikes in that time frame, which Amnesty called
just the “tip of the iceberg.”
SDF and coalition operations continue further south in the Hajin pocket. The UN is concerned
about 10,000 civilians trapped in the ISIS-held town.
Prior to the Raqqa and Hajin operations the coalitions dropped leaflets advising civilians to flee through safe corridors.
Raqqa in video: Searching for the dead