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Iran Press TV

HRW accuses US, allies of using child soldiers to recapture Raqqah

Iran Press TV

Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:30PM

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the US-led coalition and its local allies of using child soldiers during their major offensive to recapture the northern Syrian city of Raqqah from the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.

Lama Fakih, the deputy Middle East director at the HRW, said on Tuesday that the group was concerned that "some US allies" particularly the so-called Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have used children for military purposes in past.

"In our latest report released today, Human Rights Watch has identified a handful of key priorities that the US-led coalition and allies on the ground, including the Syrian Democratic Forces, should keep in mind to prioritize civilian protection in the context of the Raqqah offensive," media outlets quoted Fakih as saying.

"We have already documented a series of rights abuses in the context of anti-ISIS [Daesh] operations and we will continue to document through communications with people on the ground as well as missions onto the ground and interviews with displaced persons following these key trends and they include for example treatment of displaced persons. Are displaced persons allowed to freely move around in Syria once they get out of Raqqah? Are they receiving adequate levels of humanitarian assistance? Are there in fact civilian casualties resulting from coalition strikes? We are concerned that some of the US allies on the ground have in the past used child soldiers and are urging coalition forces as well as the forces on the ground to ensure that no child soldiers participate in the battle to remove ISIS [Daesh] from Raqqah."

In a statement released on Tuesday, the New York-based rights group urged the United States and its allies to make the protection of civilians a priority in the offensive.

The leading rights group also asked the US to investigate airstrikes that had targeted civilians across the region.

It also called on the United States to respect the rights of detainees, provide safe passage for displaced and intensify efforts to clear land mines across the violence-hit region.

Elsewhere in the statement, the group said the United States and the local partner forces on the ground must respect the rights of everyone caught up in the battle.

Washington is providing ground and air support to the Kurdish-led SDF in the battle for Raqqah, which has since 2014 been Daesh's main base in Syria.

The United States has also been overseeing and sourcing a constant flow of arms and other supplies to militants, including those of the SDF, which is against the Damascus government.

The SDF, a US-backed alliance of mostly Kurdish and Arab militants, said in early June that it had launched a major operation aimed at pushing Daesh out of Raqqah, the Takfiri terror group's main stronghold in northern Syria.

They have been advancing towards the city since last November, and have just forced their way into the city near the Turkish border.

Daesh seized Raqqah earlier that year, when it started its campaign of bloodshed and destruction against Syria.

Syria has steadfastly objected to the US-led operations as Washington did not seek Damascus' approval in launching the offensive.

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