Syrians in Raqqa tell of ‘insane nights’ of air strikes

Activists say abandoned ISIL bases hit in city suburbs with no civilians or fighters as France carries out air strikes.

File photo of a man raising his hand as he stands on the spot where the statue of Hafez Al-Assad used to be in Raqqa province
A man in Raqqa stands where a statue of Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez used to be [Hamid Khatib/Reuters]

French defence officials say that, for the second time in less than 24 hours, fighter jets have targeted Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Syria.

Ten Rafale and Mirage 2000 fighters carried out the raid early in the morning, dropping 16 bombs, the defence ministry said on Tuesday, as France hits back at ISIL in retaliation for Friday’s Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people and wounded hundreds more.

“Both targets were hit and destroyed simultaneously,” the ministry said.

“Conducted in coordination with US forces, the raid was aimed at sites identified during reconnaissance missions previously carried out by France.”

On Sunday, the French defence ministry said 30 air strikes destroyed an ISIL training camp and munitions dump in Raqqa.

However, a media activist in Raqqa, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that French air strikes had targeted abandoned ISIL bases in the suburbs of the city where there are no civilians or ISIL fighters. 

“It has been two insane nights. Abandoned ISIL posts were targeted at the entrance of the city, along with ISIL checkpoints and several other points. Electricity and water have been cut off as supply lines were hit too.

“We can confirm that there were no civilians killed or injured in the latest French air strikes.

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“People are horrified and everyone here lives in fear. We are sure that several ISIL fighters at the checkpoints were killed in the air strikes.”

The Pentagon said that over the past few days it had also bombed ISIL posts in Iraq and Syria.

On Monday, the US-led coalition’s warplanes struck ISIL targets in Raqqa and several posts were destroyed, the US defence department said on its website.


France is part of the coalition, which was launched in September 2014, but conducted its first air strike in Syria only in September 2015.

‘Raqqa is devastated’

The Syrian activist in Raqqa said that in the past few days Russian air strikes had caused the most destruction.

“Last week, Russian air strikes destroyed one of the main bridges in the city in addition to the national hospital. Most hospitals in the city have been destroyed in Raqqa,” he said.

“Russian air strikes have resulted in so much destruction. If these countries wanted to bomb the heartland of ISIL, they could have done so. But they still have not targeted the group’s most important bases.

“This is what we do not understand. The targets bombed by French warplanes were mostly abandoned by ISIL fighters.

French jets pound ISIL targets in Raqqa

“The US, Russia and France are all bombing Syria. How many more countries want to bomb us?

“Raqqa is devastated. Raqqa has endured the unbearable and we live in fear under ISIL’s dictatorship.

“A lot of people fled the the city. In fact, most refugees heading to Europe are from Raqqa. That is how desperate they are to leave here. People are fed up here and just want to live normal lives.

“Our lives are all under threat. ISIL controls every aspect of our lives and we are not allowed to expose the truth.

“Not everyone who lives in Raqqa approves of ISIL. I am a citizen of Raqqa and I refused to leave my hometown just like many others did.

“What the world needs to know is that we live under ISIL control on the ground, and constant air strikes from the sky. We are trapped,” the activist said.

Separately, the anti-ISIL group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered said on Sunday that overnight air strikes hit a stadium, a museum, several clinics, a hospital and a governmental building.

The group told Al Jazeera that no civilians were hurt or injured in any of the latest French air strikes.

“Of course we do not like to see people afraid of air strikes and explosions, but we support any actions that will take ISIL out of Raqqa,” the group said on its Twitter account.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said activists reported hearing explosions in Raqqa resulting from air strikes.

The activists’ network said no civilian death toll has been recorded due to the strikes.

Source: Al Jazeera