US says an average of 50 people a week are being killed in Syriaís Raqqa city, occupied and by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militias.
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator told members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that virtually nothing is being done for some 100,000 repatriates who have returned to the destroyed city.
"Conditions are not conducive for returns, due to the high levels of unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive device contamination, widespread and severe infrastructural damage, and a lack of basic services. Every week, there have been over 50 casualties reported due to remnants of war. With the onset of spring there is concern that children, playing outside, are particularly vulnerable. An estimated 70-80 percent of all buildings inside Raqqa city are destroyed or damaged," Mark Lowcock said, reporting on the UN teamís findings after its April 1 visit to the Syrian city.
"While public services are slowly resuming, with at least 37 bakeries operational, the city lacks electricity and mobile communications, and water is only pumped at a very limited capacity to the outskirts of the city. Up to 95 percent of households who have returned to Raqqa are food insecure. Health services are lacking or severely limited," the UN official said.
Raqqa, the Syrian stronghold of the terrorist group ISIS was declared on October 20 "liberated" by both the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the US. However, before US-backed militias enter into the destroyed city, several hundred ISIS fighters struck a deal with the SDF to take their family members and leave to ISIS-controlled parts of Deir ez-Zor governorate. Some foreign fighters reportedly stayed behind, refusing to surrender.
Raqqa was taken from ISIS after months of constant bombardment by coalition airstrikes and artillery shelling. The UN estimates that over 80 percent of the buildings in the city are now uninhabitable while reporters on the ground say literally not one of the houses was left unscathed in the fighting.
Pre-war, the city had some 220,000 residents. The Syrian violence caused mass migration, with tens of thousands arriving in Raqqa throughout the years, but under ISIS rule the cityís reduced to 200,000 by the beginning of the US-backed militiasí siege in June.
Four months later, an overwhelming majority of the civilians had fled Raqqa, while some 1,800 to 1,900 were killed in the fighting. Coalition strikes accounted for at least 1,300 of those deaths, according to Airwars group, which records and verifies reports of deaths in Iraq and Syria. If the figure included the deaths since March, when the SDF started preparations for the siege, in would be above 2,000, higher than the estimated coalition kills during the capture of Mosul in Iraq, a city several times higher.
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria recently said US-led coalition killed at least 150 civilians in the airstrikes on a school in Raqqa in March 2017.
Raqqa devastated, de-facto occupied, run by a gang of incompetents: Russia
Russiaís UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, after the UN representative report at UNSC, blamed the US and its allies are doing practically nothing to help rebuild Raqqa.
The situation in Raqqa, destroyed during a four-month battle that ended in October 2017, remains "disastrousRussian diplomat said on Tuesday, after Moscow requested holding an open UN Security Council briefing on the humanitarian situation in Raqqa and the Rukban refugee camp on the border with Jordan.
"Rebuilding the city that was destroyed by airstrikes is not taking place. People have been returning at their own risk and are often being killed by mines and IEDs," Nebenzya noted, reaffirming the observations voiced by Lowcock.
"American occupation hasnít brought anything positive to the inhabitants. The only effective solution to the current situation is to reestablish state structures in Raqqa," the envoy added, noting that people in the "de-facto occupied territory" have started to protest against the US presence there.
The city is now under the loose control of SDF militias. Reconstruction of Raqqa and its suburbs is being carried out through a network of local councils, which Nebenzia called a gang of "completely incompetent people."
"How can we entrust them with peopleís safety and security?" he asked. "Raqqa is in ruins. Literally, there isnít a building left standing. Thousands of bodies are still buried under the ruins."
The Russian ambassador condemned the American-led intervention in Syria, noting that the April 14 strikes by the US-France-UK "troika" only set back the reconciliation process in a country ravished by a seven-year-old war. Moscow believes that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that countries must work together to aid the peace process.
"By their acts of aggression, the troika, and those who supported or welcomed their actions considerably set back Geneva negotiations," the diplomat said. "If the goal is to force the Syrian President under a hail of bombs to sit at the negotiation table, presented as a victory over him...such a task is not feasible...there should be no illusions."
The Russian ambassador urged all states to stop attempts to create "new realities" in Syria that undermine its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Nebenzia also demanded that the US and its allies stop "aggressive hatred rhetoric" addressed at Syria and Russia, and to cut out requests calling for regime change in Damascus. Militants, for their part, must refrain from provocations, including the use of chemical weapons, and drop attempts to provoke further "external aggression," he added.
Meanwhile, the US called the UN meeting a farce, orchestrated by Moscow in an attempt to "distract" the international community from Bashar Assadís crimes.
"Russia has called us here as part of a messaging campaign to try to distract from the atrocities committed by the regime," deputy US Ambassador to the UN, Kelley Currie, said. "In order to do that, Russia has asked this council to focus its attention on the one part of Syria where the Assad regime isnít pummeling civilians to death with barrel bombs or banned chemical weapons."