More than 40000 children at risk in Syria's Raqqa

Syria’s Kurds are now receiving direct US military support and hold large swathes of the Kurdish-majority parts of the country they call ‘Rojava

Moscow has leveled heavy accusations at USA -led coalition forces in Syria, who it claims is expediting the Islamic State group's exit from its Raqqa stronghold in an effort to undermine government efforts to quell terrorist activity in the country.

Surovikin said Friday the USA -coalition along with the allied Kurds "collude with the leaders of the IS, who surrender the areas under their control and head to provinces where Syrian government forces operate".

On the southwestern outskirts of the city, Sheikh Ahmad said their forces took control of Sibahiya district after engaging in heavy clashes with IS militants.

Surovikin also criticized the U.S. for trying to block Syrian government forces from taking control of the country's southern border. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then. Today, they pierced into Raqa from the west, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

He said that Syrian government troops had secured territorial gains in the southern Suwayda province near the Jordanian border, but encountered resistance from the USA -led coalition.

Islamic State militants seized the city in January 2014, transforming it into a hub for the group's leadership and its self-described caliphate.

The Britain-based group reported 23 civilians killed in the overnight strikes, including 15 who were in an internet cafe in the western suburb of Jazra, just outside the city. Photo Credit: Mohamad Abazeed/AFP via Getty Images "An estimated 40,000 children remain trapped in extremely risky conditions in Raqqa".

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"Many are caught in the crossfire", said UNICEF regional director Geert Cappelaere.

He called on all parties to provide safe passage to those wishing to leave the city.

Backed by US-led coalition air strikes, the Syrian Democratic Forces have spent months tightening the noose on IS-held Raqa and entered the city for the first time earlier this week from the east.

In addition to the airstrikes, Raqqa was subjected to artillery and missile attacks, according to the activist collective known as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

That decrease could indicate IS intends to use remaining civilians "as human shields", the aid group said.

"As a matter of policy the Coalition does not discuss the employment of specific weapons and munition usage; however, in accordance with the law of armed conflict white phosphorus rounds are used for screening, obscuring, and marking in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures", the spokesperson said.

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