Tessa Manuello / Rudaw & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com – 2014-09-26 23:26:14
‘Indiscriminate’ Iraqi Air Force Bombings
Killing Civilians, Watchdog Says
Tessa Manuello / Rudaw
MONTREAL, Canada (September 26, 2014) — “Indiscriminate” Iraqi air force attacks meant to wipe out Islamic State forces have killed dozens of civilians, including 24 refugee children housed at a school near Tikrit at the start of this month, according to an international rights watchdog.
“This is not an isolated incident. We have documented a pattern of indiscriminate attacks from the air in which civilians have died,” Fred Abrahams, special advisor at New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Rudaw in a phone interview. “The death toll is high from these cases. At least 75 civilians have been killed and hundreds of others have been wounded in 17 airstrikes,” he said.
HRW has called on the Iraqi government to promptly probe a September 1 airstrike it says hit a school near Tikrit housing refugees. At least 31 civilians, including 24 children, were killed in the raid, which also wounded 41 others, according to the rights group.
The al-Alam Vocational High School was housing displaced people who fled Tikrit after the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants took control of the city in mid-June, HRW says. “The death toll is high from these cases, at least 75 civilians have been killed and hundreds of others have been wounded in 17 airstrikes,” according to Abrahams.
HRW called for a probe a day after Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered the army to stop shelling militant-held populated areas to minimize civilian casualties. “Unlawful” attacks, Abrahams said, have been reported within IS-controlled areas in Fallujah, Beiji, Mosul, Tikrit, and al-Sherqat, with Sunni Iraqis the primary victims.
“The government is trying to fight ISIS but it is going to create more enemies among the Sunni population if it is not more careful and is only targeting compounds,” Abrahams said. Abadi issued on order on September 11 to halt Iraqi air forces strikes on neighborhoods with civilian populations. But the bombings have continued in Anbar province, where a hospital was hit.
Iraqi officials have given “a very weak explanation” for the questioned air attacks, Abrahams said. He added that, while subsequent airstrikes have not been investigated yet, they are “definitely concerning.”
Iraq’s government has told HRW that the explosion that hit the school was from a vehicle nearby that was transporting militants. The strike on the vehicle caused an explosion that was “far larger than normal,” the government said, because of the explosives the car was apparently carrying.
“All of the witnesses we’ve interviewed, people in the school and in the neighborhood, nobody spoke about a car and actually the witnesses said the missile hit in the middle of the courtyard, not on the outside where there was any car,” Abrahams said.
The civilian casualties by the Iraqi air strikes reveal “a level of unprofessionalism that puts civilians in danger,” Abrahams said. He added that orders to shoot, when it was unclear whether the targets were military or civilian, was “unacceptable.”
HRW has called on all governments supporting the campaign against IS to pressure the Iraqi government to follow the rules of war. “We have unconfirmed reports of some civilian casualties in Syria, from US airstrikes,” Abrahams said, adding that those are being investigated.
American strikes in Iraq over the past month successfully targeted individual IS targets, patrol boats and trucks. On Tuesday, the United States and its allies launched the first rounds of airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria. Several allies have signed up to the US-led air raids.
Red Cross: US Strikes Add to Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq, Syria
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 26, 2014) — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that the US-led airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria have “compounded the humanitarian consequences of the conflicts in both countries.”
Even though the US couched the initial attacks in Iraq as a “humanitarian intervention,” their focus has since expanded to a full-scale war to “destroy” ISIS, in which officials have promised to keep civilian casualties to a minimum, but didn’t appear overly concerned about the deaths in the strikes so far.
The Red Cross warns that the situation is continuing to worsen, and warned that all the combatant factions must refrain from harming civilians and must allow humanitarian workers to bring help.
As US strikes have increased, ISIS has moved most of its forces to less conspicuous targets that are less convenient to hit. This has made the US more likely to go after difficult targets, particularly those in populated areas, which means the humanitarian woes of the conflict are likely to grow as the war continues.
US Strikes Boost ISIS Recruitment in Syria’s Aleppo
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 26, 2014) — Syrian rebels say that the US airstrikes on ISIS inside Syria haven’t helped them. If you’re wondering who is benefiting, the answer could well be ISIS. Since President Obama announced his intention to strike Syria on September 10, ISIS has gained more than 200 new fighters in Aleppo Province alone. That’s likely a drop in the bucket compared to what it did for recruitment in provinces where they have a larger presence.
The US couldn’t be following the ISIS map more closely if they planned it, as the group is building itself up into a larger and more influential faction primarily on the credibility it gets from being a top US enemy right now, moreso than the territory it gained in the past year.
The administration’s answer to ISIS growing increasingly influential has been to hype them even further, and present them as a new, global enemy that needs to be wiped out through force of arms. Unsurprisingly, that has made many of the people in the line of fire of America’s newest war stand up and take notice, and is bringing a lot of them to ISIS, where they can resist the incoming US attacks on their homes.
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