Published: Sat, June 10, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

SDF Lower Islamic State Flag in Recaptured Town West of Raqqa

SDF Lower Islamic State Flag in Recaptured Town West of Raqqa

Russia's Ministry of Defense reported on Friday that pro-government forces circled around US military advisers in eastern Syria to reach the Iraqi border, dealing what could be a major blow to the declared USA mission to defeat Islamic State militants in the desert region.

The offensive on Raqqa comes at a time when USA -backed Iraqi government forces say they are close to fully liberating Mosul, the final significant IS stronghold in Iraq.

In recent weeks, it has also targeted pro-government forces near Syria's border with Jordan. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.

The US-led coalition said the drone was downed after it fired at coalition forces near the Al-Tanaf garrison, where anti-IS Syrian rebels are being trained.

"One gets the impression that the Americans are using (the Islamic State group) to offer stubborn resistance to the movement of government troops, making use of the legend about the fight against worldwide terrorism in Syria", the commander said, noting that Western news agencies have assisted Washington's misleading claims by proliferating fabricated stories about fierce clashes between USA -led armed personnel and the Islamist group.

Smoke billows following a reported air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern Syrian city of Daraa early on June 9, 2018.

UNICEF warned "an estimated 40,000 children remain trapped in unsafe conditions in Raqqa city".

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Its regional spokesman David Swanson said as many as 100,000 people "may stay trapped" inside during the assault.

"Children are deprived of the most basic and life-saving necessities", he added, urging safe passage for those who want to leave the city.

Amid the advances, it was reported by local media activists and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that an internet cafe in Jazrah was hit in a coalition airstrike, killing 17.

"They are taking all sorts of measures because they know losing Raqqa is the beginning of the end for Daesh", he said, using another common name for the group.

"As a matter of policy the Coalition does not discuss the employment of specific weapons and munition usage; however, in accordance with the law of armed conflict white phosphorus rounds are used for screening, obscuring, and marking in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures", the spokesperson said.

Worldwide law prohibits the use of white phosphorous in civilian zones because of its indiscriminate effects - from starting fires to causing excruciating burns for bystanders over a large area - according to Human Rights Watch, which said it was investigating the allegations.

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