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‘Raqqa city has become a stage for international revenge’

AMMAN: After nearly three dozen French airstrikes on Sunday, Raqqans […]

16 November 2015

AMMAN: After nearly three dozen French airstrikes on Sunday, Raqqans who spoke to Syria Direct Monday said they “don’t wish Islamic State oppression on anyone” amidst fears that their city “has become a stage for international revenge.”

Sunday’s strikes reportedly targeted Islamic State positions on the outskirts of Raqqa city, including two former regime bases and a complex that once housed poultry farms. The aggregate bombings led to the “total cutoff of water and electricity” inside the city, Hamoud al-Musa, a member of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently currently in southern Turkey, told Syria Direct Monday.

The reach and extent of the damage from the French bombings was not clear due to the limited freedom of movement of opposition journalists on the ground along with the Islamic State’s tight grip over internet use. IS has not released any photographs of the bombings’ aftermath, but IS-affiliated al-Amaq reported on Monday that “French airplanes carried out dozens of raids on the outskirts of Raqqa without causing any injuries.”

One clear message the civilians and journalists who spoke with Syria Direct delivered is that Raqqa citizens denounce Friday’s attacks in Paris.

“Everyone needs to realize that the residents of Raqqa are against the explosions in France,” Abu Muadh, a former Raqqa resident currently residing near Tel Abyad, told Syria Direct Monday.

Raqqans “are suffering and living IS’s terrorism on a daily basis, and don’t wish that oppression on anyone, not France or any other country,” he added.

Furat al-Wafaa, a journalist with the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently campaign currently in an undisclosed location in Raqqa province, echoed Abu Muadh’s sentiments: “Some people expressed their upset [over the Paris attacks] and empathy because of France’s stance on Syria and the criminal [Assad] regime.”

In a meeting with a French delegation after the Paris attacks, Bashar al-Assad stressed that France had intervened on the wrong side of the Syrian conflict and that its “ignorance” of a number of its allies’ “support for terrorists are reasons behind the expansion of terrorism,” reported state-owned SANA Sunday.

While France’s airstrikes Sunday appeared to have left no civilian casualties, Raqqans expressed concern that their city had become a stage for global players to act out their grievances.

“As far as its residents are concerned, Raqqa city has become a stage for international revenge,” Mohammed Musa, a former Raqqa resident currently residing in Germany as a refugee, told Syria Direct Monday.

“If a plane explodes above Egypt, Raqqa is bombed,” Musa said. “If a Jordanian plane falls, Raqqa is bombed; after the explosions in Paris, Raqqa is bombed.”

The intensity of France’s estimated 30 strikes on Sunday initially sowed panic among city residents, said Abu Muadh.

“After it was confirmed that civilians weren’t injured in the strikes, people calmed down a bit.”

Hamoud al-Musa of RBSS confirmed that no civilians had been hit in the airstrikes. “I think that’s a first for Raqqa city,” he said.

While the Islamic State reported no injuries in the bombings, IS social media supporters claimed that civilians had been killed, with a video circulated widely on Twitter reportedly showing first responders rescuing civilians from the rubble.

“The first responders who appeared in the video don’t have beards—that would never happen in Raqqa city,” said Furat al-Wafaa, adding that the video was probably shot in November 2013 when a local market was hit by a regime rocket.

Despite an apparent lack of civilian casualties, city residents with relatives in the countryside fled for those areas after the French strikes, said Furat al-Wafaa.

“People expect more attacks will come their way.”

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