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UNITED NATIONS, February 23. /TASS/. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien has voiced grave concerns over military operations against the Islamic State in Syria that continue resulting in civilian suffering.
"In recent weeks, for example, airstrikes and fighting around both Ar-Raqqa and Al-Bab resulted in numerous civilian casualties, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, as well as displacement. To date, the UN has received reports of approximately 300 civilians killed, mainly due to airstrikes and improvised explosive devices," O’Brien said.
Civilians have also been subjected to gunfire by IS fighters, who shoot at people trying to flee to areas controlled by the Syrian opposition. In some cases, these groups shoot at civilians who appear to have been mistaken for IS elements.
"The majority of the population - some 13.5 million people - are in dire need of protection and humanitarian assistance," he said. "Nearly 85 per cent of Syrians live in poverty, with more than two thirds of the population in either extreme or abject poverty."
"Over half of all Syrians have been forced from their homes since 2011, 6.3 million of whom are internally displaced, more than 4.9 million registered as refugees in neighbouring countries, and nearly 1.2 million Syrians who have applied for asylum in Europe," he said.