raqqa civilians
Civilians who escaped from the Islamic State militants at Raqqa's frontline rest at a mosque in Raqqa, Syria, on 12 October 2017 REUTERS/ErikDeCastro

Syrian civilians who fled one of Isis' last strongholds, Raqqa, on Thursday (12 October) said they had tried to flee in the past but were shot at by Isis militants as they made their escape.

Hundreds of civilians left the city last week as air raids by a US-led coalition intensified in a bid to drive Isis militants from one of their last strongholds in Syria.

Many of them were badly wounded and severely malnourished after enduring months of fighting between Isis and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

One evacuee said that she had tried to flee with her family many times before, but was prevented from leaving by militants who shot anyone trying to escape.

She said that Isis militants had killed her husband and left her alone with three children.

Um Moussa, 38, said she had seen Isis kill a two-year-old child.

"My son saw hordes of people leaving so we decided to go for it. I'd been sleeping fully dressed – we were ready to flee at the first chance," she told Reuters. "Yesterday four entire families were killed in our area. It's strike after strike."

24-year-old Abdullah Ali told Reuters that he lost 14 family members after an airstrike hit their home.

"My wife, mum, dad, all 14 people in my family were killed. Their bodies are trapped under rubble," he said, as he sat in front of a mosque outside Raqqa. His neighbour, Abdo Hussein, said more than 50 people were in the building at the time and that only a handful survived.

On Saturday (14 October), Syrian officials said a deal had been reached to evacuate civilians from Raqqa and allow US-led forces to focus on defeating Isis. The battle for Raqqa, which began in June, has reached its final phase, according to a spokesman for the US-led coalition.

Mustafa Bali of the SDF said on Monday that the coalition expects to have control of the city "within days", after some 275 Isis militants and their families surrendered.