People fleeing villages around the Syrian city of Raqqa claim ISIL has been using civilians as human shields.
Video images have been uploaded to social media sites by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has launched an assault to try to recapture a strategic dam near the city.
One man on the back of a truck said:” We came here looking for safety. We fled this morning. ISIL burned our tents.”
“They want to use us as human shields. If there is an area with citizens, they target it, if it is empty, they leave.”
“We escaped from them,” said a woman. “It was terrible, we could not wait to leave, we barely escaped with our lives.”
Another man said there are about 5,000 civilians on the run from Tabqa and its surrounding villages.
“ISIL treated them very poorly,” he says. “They’re fleeing to safety”.
Capture of the area around the Tabqa dam would be a major strategic advance for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
A Syrian Democratic Forces fighter said: “We brought refugees from Tabqa to safe areas.
“Just now, five minutes ago, a mortar fell here. Islamic State is targeting helpless citizens.”
Amid intense shelling there have been fears about the stability of the Tabqa dam, with many villages and towns located below it.
But despite the fighting, engineers have been attempting to make repairs and open important spillways.