As the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to regain control of northern Syrian towns, ISIS has resorted to using civilians as human shields to prevent the SDF from advancing to Al-Hawl, one of the extremist group’s strongholds, which is east of Hasakah.

According to ARA News, ISIS has been preventing civilians from leaving the town. People that are caught trying to leave the town are publicly executed as a lesson to others who are thinking of leaving.

Recently, the surrounding areas around Al-Hawl have seen a lot of battles between the SDF, which receives air support from the American-led coalition forces, and ISIS. The SDF has been able to regain 40 villages and some gas stations in the last few days.

In an interview with ARA News, Abdul Rahman Azzaal, a local resident, said that civilians in Al-Hawl and the surrounding areas have been displaced due to the recent clashes in the region. He also said ISIS militants prevented civilians from leaving the Al-Hawl because the group plans to use the civilians as human shields.

“Using civilians as human shields may constrain the American-led coalition from bombing the ISIS-held areas,” he said.

Azzaal also told ARA News that he still has many relatives in the area, but they aren’t able to leave the area out of fear of what the extremist group will do to them.

“As SDF troops advance in Hasakah countryside, ISIS militants are trying to hide among civilians in order to avoid airstrikes and shells,” he added.

ARA News also interviewed civil rights activist Osama Ali, who said, “We have received information that ISIS terrorists are hiding among civilians, utilizing them as human shields at the battlefronts near Al-Hawl and Shaddadi.”

“The terror group uses this tactic to cause as much civilian casualties as possible; then the American-backed operations may seem like crimes against humanity. The U.S.-led coalition and the SDF should be aware of such strategies by the ISIS barbaric group,” Ali added.

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