SDF soldiers retake the children’s hospital in southwestern Raqqa. Photo: Manbij Military Council video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling ISIS in Raqqa have taken a children’s hospital that ISIS was using as a headquarters in the city.
SDF forces liberated the children’s hospital in southwestern Raqqa after violent clashes that resulted in the deaths of 16 ISIS militants, the Raqqa liberation campaign announced Sunday evening.
In an interview with CBS’ This Morning programme on Friday, Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy to the global anti-ISIS coalition, said ISIS is “using a children’s hospital in Raqqa as their primary base of operations.”
On Sunday he tweeted that the SDF had entered the ISIS command centre.
McGurk described ISIS’ choice to set up its base in a children’s hospital as part of its tactic to use the estimated 20,000 civilians remaining in the city as human shields.
A day earlier, the UN had called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow for the residents of Raqqa to escape amid growing concerns of civilian casualties under heavy shelling and constant coalition air raids.
“The civilian casualties are large and there seems to be no real escape for these civilians,” said Jan Egeland, the UN’s humanitarian advisor on Syria.
In order to protect the civilian population, “The number one thing we have to do is defeat them and defeat them as soon as we can,” McGurk told CBS.
In both Syria and Iraq, ISIS has routinely used human shields and set up military bases and posts in locations like hospitals, schools, and religious centres, contrary to international rules of war.
Some 60 percent of the city has now been retaken from ISIS, according to coalition estimates.