The “Wrath of the Euphrates”… New Risks

The first month of the battles to liberate Al-Raqqah

We attempt by this report to examine the first results of the military campaign known as the ‘Wrath of the Euphrates”.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (the SDF) announced the second phase of “the Wrath of the Euphrates” military operation on December 07, 2016, in which the SDF spokesperson, Ali Al-Salu, mentioned that their objectives include the liberation of the entire western countryside of Al-Raqqah and isolating the city in cooperation with the International Coalition.

In the first phase of the campaign, the SDF captured a number of villages in northern Al-Raqqah after the International Coalition carried out more than 200 airstrikes in that region, causing the death of more than 89 Daesh fighters, including commanders. 13 foreign Daesh fighters were among the casualties they suffered in the airstrikes and the rest were pro-Daesh locals.

However, the “Wrath of the Euphrates” has had high-risk consequences on civilians. More than 103 civilians were killed, mostly women and children, in the villages of Al-Hishah, Maazilah, Al-Salhiyah, Al-Kalta and Abu Asi. In addition, dozens of civilian-owned houses were destroyed on large-scales, causing the displacement of thousands of residents. This staggering number of civilian deaths and massive destruction were caused by the International Coalition who receive coordinates from the SDF operating on the ground. The SDF denied all massacres and destruction that occurred in north of the province and accused those who reported on them of being “Daesh affiliates”.

The SDF went further and gathered displaced civilians from villages in the western countryside in a camp located in the Aqtan area near Ain Aissa, and they then asked them to join their ranks or pay a 1000 USD fine for six months. The SDF also looted civilian belongings in villages they captured from the organization.

Daesh has benefited from the human rights abuses committed by both, the Coalition and the SDF, by succeeding in the recruitment of more locals to compensate a manpower shortage in their ranks. Moreover, Daesh launched a campaign under the banner “ Register your name in the list of the caravan of martyrdom operations” and claimed that they have recruited 1000 people from that campaign only. More child soldiers from the “Cubs of the Caliphate” graduated and were deployed to battlefields.
The organization also prevented civilians from leaving Al-Raqqah and used severe punishment methods against the violators, including crucifixion, flogging and execution by firing squads. They also arrested 33 Kurdish civilians on charges of communicating with the Coalition after receiving intelligence data from their supporters.

Civilians who are caught between the SDF and Daesh in north of Al-Raqqah remain the most effected by the ongoing military operation, as they continue to face displacement, death, harsh weather and poor living conditions.

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