Raqqa: Will the lessons from Mosul be learnt in time?

July 2017

As US-led coalition forces in partnership with a non-state armed group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, continue their attempt to take Raqqa from ISIS control, up to 200,000 civilians remain at risk, including some 70,000 inside the city.

In June the chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria warned that the intensification of coalition air strikes had already led to a ‘staggering loss of civilian life’. Syrian human rights groups have recorded some 1,400 civilian deaths in total over the last eight months including those from air strikes, artillery fire, and hundreds killed by ISIS on the ground.

The pattern of killing in Raqqa is tragically beginning to resemble that during the nine-month assault on Mosul in neighbouring Iraq, which ended this month.

A survey of recent practice by Iraqi and international coalition forces published by the Ceasefire Centre at the start of the Mosul campaign warned then that the lives of thousands of civilians were at critical risk.

Report PDF: Civilian protection in the battle for Mosul: critical priorities

Civilian protection in the battle for Mosul: Critical priorities found that recent precedents from military operations to retake Iraqi cities from ISIS control, including Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah and Sinjar, demonstrate a pattern of repeated failures to implement sufficient measures for civilian protection, both in the conduct of hostilities and in planning for the humanitarian consequences. In the event, thousands of civilians were killed in Mosul and, according to the most recent figure from the International Organization for Migration, over one million were displaced.

In particular, the imposition of siege tactics on ISIS-held cities and the intensive bombardment of urban areas by international coalition forces has combined with the ISIS tactic of using ‘human shields’ to result in thousands of civilian casualties and high levels of civilian suffering.

The operation to encircle Raqqa and lay siege to the city threatens to concentrate the battle in neighbourhoods that remain heavily populated with civilians.

All parties to the conflict should adhere at all times to their obligations under international humanitarian law, including ensuring respect for the fundamental principle of distinction, prohibiting indiscriminate attacks, and taking all feasible precautions to avoid, or in any event minimise, civilian death or injury or damage to civilian objects.

Related Posts

Escalating violations in Syria’s Afrin

A year after the region was hit by a devastating earthquake, the human rights situation in Afrin in Turkish-occupied Syria is deteriorating further, finds a new submission to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria by Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and YASA Kurdish Center for Studies and Legal Consultancy.

Read More »

UK war powers convention now devoid of content: New report

The constitutional Convention requiring Parliament to be consulted if the UK goes to war has now been emptied of any substantive content, argues a new report published by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision in January 2024 to commence ongoing airstrikes against Ansar Allah (‘the Houthis’) in Yemen without a

Read More »

Search the site:

Post Categories:

Recent news and reports:

Scroll to Top