Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

ICC Note:

An attempt to negotiate ISIS’s surrender in the battle for Raqqa has given hundreds of civilians the opportunity to escape, according to reports. ISIS has a history of using civilians, especially religious minorities, as human shields during offensives to recapture their territory. Most Christian residents of Raqqa had already fled the city long before this recent exodus, although some were forced to remain behind after ISIS banned Christians from leaving last year. At that time, it was believed there were forty Christian families left in the city. The current number of Christians living in Raqqa remain unknown.

10/12/2017 Syria
(The Times) – Forces backed by the West are negotiating an Isis surrender in the battle for Raqqa and safe passage for civilians, according to activists in eastern Syria.

The US-led coalition confirmed yesterday that its allies were attempting to arrange for thousands of residents still trapped in the jihadists’ former capital to leave.

It did not confirm claims by activists that a surrender deal for hundreds of Isis fighters, including foreign militants, was also being discussed.

Isis has never previously given up its “human shields” in advance of an agreed withdrawal. The deal may have failed to come off, after reports that fighting, which stopped for most of Tuesday, resumed overnight. However, in the meantime hundreds of civilians were able to escape.

“More than 1,000 civilians have been rescued,” said Rojda Felat, a commander in the Kurdish militias which form the leading component of the US and UK-backed forces, in a video released by the group online.

The coalition, which has provided devastating air power in support of the forces on the ground, believes that 400 fighters and 4,000 civilians remain in the 15 per cent of the city still under Isis control. Known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, (SDF) it includes local Arab tribal and former rebel groups, as well as the Kurdish troops.

Airstrikes have caused a heavy loss of life, and commanders are concerned that this will only increase if Isis continues to use civilians as human shields as its sliver of territory shrinks further.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitor based in Britain, said that more than 1,100 civilians have lost their lives in the past four months, along with 1,300 Isis fighters and more than 600 SDF troops.

According to Raqqa 24, a network of activists, surrender negotiations focused on handing over Isis fighters to local tribal authorities. They would be finger-printed, made to promise not to join any further fighting group and put under tribal supervision.

However, it was not clear what would happen to the foreign fighters among them, who are unlikely to want to surrender to the coalition. It said buses were waiting outside the city to carry away the beneficiaries of any deal struck.

America, which opposed a deal struck with Isis by the Syrian regime, Hezbollah and the Lebanese army to transfer 300 Isis fighters from an enclave in western Syria to the battlefronts in Deir Ezzor in August, also opposes any similar proposal for Raqqa.

A spokesman for the coalition said that talks were continuing, led by the council of representatives established by local anti-Isis forces.

“The Raqqa Civil Council is leading discussions to determine the best way to enable civilians trapped by Daesh [Isis] to exit the city, where some are being held as human shields by the terrorists,” a statement said.

“Those departing Raqqa who are found to have fought for Daesh will be turned over to local authorities to face justice.”

[Full Story]