unoGeneva. - A senior United Nations aid official urged the international community to do whatever is needed to allow citizens to flee from Raqqa, describing the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh), the "worst place on earth."

Briefing journalists in Geneva, UN Special Adviser Jan Egeland said the five neighbourhoods held by ISIL in Raqqa are heavily shelled from the surrounding and encircling forces, and under constant air raids by the Coalition.

"Now is the time to think of possibilities, pauses or otherwise that might facilitate the escape of civilians, knowing that Islamic State fighters are doing their absolute best to use them as human shields," Mr. Egeland said. "I cannot think of a worse place on earth now than in these five neighborhoods and for these 20,000 people."

Displaced children and adults are seen after fleeing from ISIL- controlled areas in rural Raqqa, Syria, to Ain Issa, the main staging point for displaced families, some 50 Km north of Raqqa city. Photo: UNICEF/Soulaiman (file)

He urged members from the Humanitarian Task Force, including the members of the Coalition that is supporting the retake of Raqqa, to "do whatever is possible to make it possible for the people to escape."

The International Syria Support Group (ISSG) established the respective taskforces on humanitarian aid delivery and a wider ceasefire. They have been meeting separately since early 2016 on a way forward in the crisis. Russia and the United States are the co-chairs of the taskforces and the ISSG, which also comprises the UN, the Arab League, the European Union and 16 other countries.

Mr. Egeland went on to note that the difference between the situation in Raqqa and that in Aleppo or other besieged areas was that that UN had contact with those holding those neighbourhoods.


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