BEIRUT, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Amnesty Internationalsaid on Thursday a USA -led coalition campaign to oust Islamic State from Syria'sRaqqa had killed hundreds of civilians, and those remaining face greater risk as the fight intensifies in its final stages.
Asked about an increase in civilian casualties resulting from USA airstrikes around the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday no military in world history has been more careful that the US -led coalition in limiting civilian casualties, but it is fighting an enemy that hides behind innocent people including women and children. "More can and must be done to preserve the lives of civilians trapped in the conflict".
Innocent civilians are being needlessly maimed and killed by all sides in the battle to retake Raqqa from ISIS, human rights charity Amnesty has warned.
The London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that over 170 civilians, mainly women and children were killed in U.S. air strikes in Raqqa since the beginning of the week.
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More than 260,000 people from the northern Iraqi city escaped and are receiving aid from 50 concentration points.
While civilians in Raqqa city have been bearing the brunt of the fighting, villagers in IS-controlled areas south of the Euphrates have faced a separate onslaught as Russian-backed Syrian government forces launched indiscriminate airstrikes in the second half of July, killing at least 18 civilians and injuring many more.
Syrian Democratic Forces launched their final assault on Raqqa in June, backed by United States air support.
It is not known precisely how many civilians are left inside the city, though United Nations estimates range from 10,000 to 50,000 people.
Even outside the city, Amnesty said, civilians were coming under attack in informal camps south of the city by Syrian regime forces using internationally-banned cluster munitions. The warring parties must prioritize protecting them from hostilities and creating safe ways for them to flee the frontline.
"But violations by IS do not lessen the worldwide legal obligations of other warring parties to protect civilians", Rovera said.
Residents told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that at least 100 civilians were killed over a 48-hour span by US-led air attacks on the city. "They have the means to do that".
In its three-year campaign in Syria and Iraq, the coalition says it can verify 624 unintentional civilian deaths.
On Tuesday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 42 civilians, among them 19 children, were killed in coalition-led strikes on Raqqa. "We are now at the clock tower roundabout, and our guys are fighting in Mansur Street", he says.
The group urged an end to the use of explosive weapons like artillery in populated civilian areas, and called for the creation of an independent and impartial investigation mechanism to examine reported civilian casualties.
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