Syria Crisis: Ar-Raqqa Situation Report No. 5 (as of 15 May 2017) [EN/AR]
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) exerts full control over Al-Thawrah town following weeks of fighting
38,939 people displaced between 1-15 May bringing the total number of people displaced since early April to 107,000
More than 13,000 IDPs returned to Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) town, with more returnees expected in the coming weeks
Airstrikes and shelling intensify across Ar-Raqqa Governorate, affecting civilians and vital infrastructure
Humanitarian partners and UN agencies continue to respond to the mounting needs of IDPs, through the distribution of multi-sectoral assistance
During the reporting period, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took full control of the Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) town, following weeks of fighting. The takeover reportedly came after an agreement was reached between the SDF and ISIL whereby the remaining ISIL fighters withdrew from the last two neighbourhoods they had control over as well as the Tabqa dam, eastwards towards Ar-Raqqa city. During the fighting, only an estimated 15,000 inhabitants stayed in the city out of an estimated 70,000 people. Since the takeover, around 15,000 people have reportedly returned to Al-Thawrah town. Furthermore, IDPs who had been staying at informal settlements to the south of the town, have also started returning. The town’s markets have small quantities of food commodities that are considered insufficient to meet the needs of the people. There are, reportedly no operating clinics or hospitals, nor medicines available in the city and no baby milk for children. Most of the water stations, pipes and water tanks have been destroyed so people do not have access to safe drinking water and are resorting to using water from the lake, which is considered unsafe. Traders are reportedly using boats to resupply their shops from markets on the other side of the river, while waiting for the dam bridge road to reopen.
In the northern countryside of Ar-Raqqa Governorate, fighting decreased during the first week of May, only to increase again from 10 May. On 11 May, SDF exerted full control over Yarmuk, Mislun and Jalaa villages, northwest of ArRaqqa city. Approximately 20,000 people were displaced as a result, and directed by the SDF to Ein Issa camp. UN agencies and NGOs in the area responded by providing ready-to-eat rations, WASH and health services. However, as the camp does not have the capacity to accommodate such a large number of people, around 5,000 people left the camp on the following day through the guarantor system after being sponsored by relatives or acquaintances.
The SDF set up the “guarantor system” as a way to regulate IDP movements into and within its areas of control. IDPs who wish to leave IDP camps inside require a guarantor, who is answerable to the Self-Administration in case any issues related to the sponsored IDP arise. Given that around 50 per cent of these IDPs are originally from the eastern countryside of Aleppo Governorate, it is expected that they will try to move to Menbij district in the coming days.
On 2 May a number of ISIS combatants infiltrated a group of civilians in the Rajm Al-Slaib screening site for Iraqi refugees and Syrian IDPs for relocation to Al Hol refugee camp. A car exploded followed by clashes between infiltrated ISIL elements and YPG. Reportedly, civilians were used as human shields during the battle. Over 50 civilians were killed as a result and many others injured.
Unverified reports emerged of airstrikes causing a number of deaths among civilians during this reporting period. On 8 May, an airstrike on the road between Ar-Raqqa and Aqeirabat reportedly hit a bus killing at least seven people. The day after, airstrikes reportedly killed 10 people and injured 20 on Al-Salihiyeh in the northern countryside, while others reportedly hit a field hospital in Al-Mansoura, killing all the people in the structure and causing material damage. On 13 May, airstrikes in the north of Ar-Raqqa reportedly killed 13 people. Several vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) detonations in Teshreen farm and Hazimeh town were reported, including one attack on 7 May in the Scientific Research Center (Al Buhuth Al Elmiya), which resulted in the killing and injuring of several people, the majority of them were reportedly IDPs. On 12 May, airstrikes on Shanina village in northern rural ArRaqqa Governorate allegedly hit an IDP gathering area, killing at least seven children. Following the collapse of a sand barrier on 15 May, water has immersed five residential neighbourhoods in western Ar-Raqqa city (Al Romaneh, Sbahia, Al Jazra, Al Hsewa, and part of Moroor quarter). Over time, the water has become contaminated, presenting a health risk to people in those areas.