Raqqa under French strikes: Life in the ISIS de facto capital

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Militant fighters from the extremist Islamic State group during a parade in Raqqa, Syria. File photo

ARA News

URFA – Subsequent to the intense airstrikes by the French warplanes –which take place within the U.S.-led coalition’s operations in the wake of deadly Paris attacks– on the main stronghold of the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) Raqqa in northeastern Syria, locals have been split between approbation and resentment over the anti-ISIS strikes by French fighter jets. 

The ISIS propaganda circulated that large numbers of civilians fell under French attacks, instigating locals to support the group on ground, while many local activists denied ISIS allegations of any civilian casualties so far. 

Civilians Relieved with French Strikes 

“As French fighter jets pummel ISIS locations in Raqqa, civilians enjoy more freedom because they escape another day of suppression by ISIS,” an eyewitness from Raqqa told ARA News on the condition of anonymity.

“As airstrikes hit their positions, ISIS gunmen hastily disappear and people breathe freely,” he said.

Activists of the campaign “Raqqa Slaughtered Silently”, which documents ISIS violations in Raqqa province, confirmed that there were no civilian casualties in the French raids so far, arguing, “Any allegations of attacking civilians are baseless.” 

“They (ISIS militants) hide in their headquarters like rats, so people enjoy some freedom,” the campaign’s spokesman told ARA News, pointing out “people could enjoy smoking for a while.”

Music, dance and smoking are forbidden under the ISIS strict regulations.

However, A civil rights activist in Raqqa emphasized concerns about ISIS using civilians as human shields under the airstrikes. 

“The group has previously used civilians as human shields in several areas across Syria in order to stop the progress of its enemies,” he said, on the condition of anonymity. “In the coming days, the group may oblige people to gather around its headquarters in Raqqa, in an attempt to cause as much civilian casualties as possible and claim that the coalition is killing innocent citizens. Thus the U.S.-led coalition should take such strategies by the radical group into consideration.”

Resentment 

With the start of the French intense airstrikes, the city saw entire outage of electricity and water. 

“This has dramatically increased the suffering of civilians in the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa,” local media activist Muhammad Samman told ARA News on Tuesday.

“Last month, the radical group started imposing conscription sanctions on violators, confiscating their property, arresting dozens, pushing them undergo jihadi trainings, in a bid to acquire jihadist mentality of killing opponents,” the source added.

Fiercest Raids On Raqqa 

On Tuesday, 10 French jets of Rafale and Mirage 2000, took off from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, and dropped 16 bombs on ISIS locations in the Syrian city of Raqqa, destroying two tactical units for the terror group, according to the French Ministry of Defense.

One of the raids targeted an ISIS-held garage north of the city, a weapons storehouse and a training camp for the extremist group, local activists told ARA News in Raqqa.

Also, the U.S.-led coalition forces conducted nearly 30 airstrikes, mainly by French fighter jets, most of which hit the southern part of the city, the French Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the Russian defense minister said on Tuesday that they have destroyed 40 targets for the terror group in Raqqa, using winged missiles of Russian ships in the Mediterranean.

French Strikes “Mere Temporary Reaction” 

Speaking to ARA News, Syrian human rights activist Majeed Salqini said that the ongoing French strikes “could be viewed as a temporary reaction to the recent Paris attacks”.

Salqini compared the currently intensified French raids to a previous air campaign by Jordan “right after ISIS militants burned the Jordanian pilot Moaz Kassasbeh to death”. 

“The French ire hitting ISIS in Raqqa, especially after Paris attacks, can be understood within the framework of a media propaganda.” 

“This will soon diminish similar to the Jordanian reaction regarding the murder of its pilot,” he told ARA News.

French President Francois Hollande had announced that “ISIS will face merciless war” after claiming its responsibility for Paris deadly attacks, during which at last 129 were killed and 300 more wounded.

Reporting by: Jan Nasro

Source: ARA News

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