Inside the “ISIS Stronghold,” Civilians Face a Multifront War


In a handout photo, the guided-missile cruiser Philippine Sea launches an attack against Islamic State targets in Syria on Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (Eric Garst / U.S. Navy via The New York Times)In a handout photo, the guided-missile cruiser Philippine Sea launches an attack against Islamic State targets in Syria on September 23, 2014. (Eric Garst / US Navy via The New York Times)

 

Anna Lekas Miller | Truthout | November 21, 2105

It is still possible to take the bus from Beirut to Raqqa, the Syrian city just east of Aleppo that is now the de facto capital of the Islamic State. The journey once took seven hours, but it now takes a minimum of 20, due to roads destroyed by clashes and dozens of checkpoints from the trifecta of the Syrian regime, al-Nusra and the Islamic State. According to accounts from those who have recently made this journey, there are still some passengers on the largely empty bus leaving from Beirut’s Charles Helou bus station every other day, provided that passengers don’t have cigarettes in their pockets and are prepared to obey modesty laws dictated by the Islamic State.

But civilian life is far from normal in Raqqa right now. First the US-led coalition to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) began pummeling the city, targeting fighters while also inadvertently killing several civilians. In recent weeks, the Russian military has launched airstrikes on the city, also – while allegedly fighting the Islamic State – causing several civilian casualties.

On November 15, French President François Hollande announced that France would launch airstrikes on the Islamic State, in retaliation for the now notorious ISIS-coordinated attack that left 129 dead and injured 350 in Paris on November 13. While some civilians living inside Raqqa support the international measures taken to drive the Islamic State from their city, the strikes nevertheless mean added chaos – and an additional danger – to their daily lives.

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