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Christians Pay $1,000 to Leave ISIS-held Areas Northeastern Syria
By Partizan Ahmed
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Amid intensifying western airstrikes on positions of the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS), and after the group imposed a new batch of restrictions on civilians in Syria's northeastern city of Raqqa, dozens of civilian families, including Christians, have reportedly left the city into more stable areas, local sources reported on Friday. This comes after the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) forces--which include the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and allied Arab and Assyrian groups--have gained much territory at the expense of ISIS in Hasakah and the areas bordering the group's main bastion, Raqqa. Speaking to ARA News in Raqqa, media activist Salim Raqqawi said that ISIS officials have appointed dozens of brokers to collect an estimated amount of US $ 1,000 as a fee for anyone would choose to leave the group's controlled areas. Raqqawi stressed that a number of civilian families, mainly Christians, have paid the designated amount and left the city into relatively safer areas in the northern suburbs of Raqqa, especially with the approaching battles on its border from both northeast and southwest of the province. "ISIS extremists have recently banned dozens of Christian families from leaving Syria's northeastern city of Raqqa, especially after the U.S.-led coalition forces intensified their airstrikes on the group's headquarters in the region," Raqqawi told ARA News. The group has been using the Christians, who were stranded in Raqqa along with other minority religious groups, as human shields in its battles with rival forces, according to local activists. "ISIS extremists would have been eliminated for a long time ago unless they hide among civilians," Raqqawi argued. "However, the hardline group is still using civilians as human shields despite the announcement of this kind of taxation on people," eyewitnesses told ARA News, speaking on the condition of anonymity. In the meantime, the ISIS-led Hisba Police intensified patrols across the city's neighborhoods "looking for an argument to impose fines on people," according to locals. Imposing $1000 on people indicates that ISIS suffers from plenty of economic problems, and its inability to cover its expenses and military operations. According to reports, ISIS has recently stopped paying salaries to many fighters in its ranks due to the remarkable deficit in its budget.

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