Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Samuel Osborne / The Independent & Suleiman Al-Khalidi / Reuters – 2017-08-23 18:57:49
Smoke rises after an air strike during fighting between members of the Syrian Democratic Forces and Islamic State militants in Raqqa, Syria REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
US Airstrikes Kill at Least
100 Syrian Civilians in Raqqa in 48 Hours
170 Killed in Past Week, Many Children
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(August 22, 2017) â€“ Escalating US airstrikes are taking a growing toll on the population of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS which is presently being invaded by US-backed forces. Reports out of the area are that at least 100 civilians have been killed in US-led airstrikes in a 48 hour span from Sunday to Tuesday.
Monday’s airstrikes were the deadliest incident of that span, with 55 civilians killed in two of the city’s eastern neighborhoods, including at least 19 children. The attacks, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, hit a particularly densely populated area.
“These are buildings full of civilians that are trying to get away from the front lines,” the Observatory’s director noted, adding that US-led coalition airstrikes seem to be targeting any building with any hint of ISIS activity in the city.
The appears to be a recurrence of the same problem that plagued the later months of the Iraqi invasion of Mosul, where US warplanes caused massive civilian tolls by attacking buildings they claimed ISIS was forcing civilians into, but which in practice were densely populated by locals because they were the only buildings still standing that were seemingly out of the direct line of fire.
Yet in the ever-escalating US war against ISIS, no building, no matter how civilian in nature, is ever really out of the direct line of fire. Such large civilian death tolls have severely harmed morale of forces on the ground, and fueled outcry from human rights groups. Officially, however, the Pentagon’s figures on how many civilians they killed are rarely more than 10% of the actual toll documented by independent NGOs, which so far has allowed the Pentagon to dismiss calls to stop targeting civilians.
Raqqa: US-led Attacks ‘Kill 100 Civilians’ in 48 hours
Women and children among the dead as a
barrage of US-led coalition raids hit ISIL-held city
(August 22, 2017) — At least 100 civilians have been killed over the past 48 hours by US-led air attacks targeting fighters in Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Syria.
Residents told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that at least 100 civilians had been killed since Sunday, with 55 civilians killed in the eastern neighbourhoods of Bedou and al-Sukhani on Monday.
Meanwhile, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) put Monday’s death toll at 42, including 19 children and 12 women, and said 27 were killed on Sunday – a two-day total of 69 people.
The deaths came on the second consecutive day of a ferocious bombing campaign in Raqqa, more than half of which has been captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling ISIL.
“The tolls are high because the air strikes are hitting neighbourhoods in the city centre that are densely packed with civilians,” SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman told the AFP news agency.
“There are buildings full of civilians that are trying to get away from the front lines. Coalition air strikes are targeting any building where any kind of [ISIL] movements are being detected.”
Earlier this month, the aid group Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym, MSF) reported that food and medicine needed to treat the wounded were in short supply.
“In Raqqa city, if you don’t die from air strikes, you die by mortar fire; if not by mortars then by sniper shots; if not by snipers, then by an explosive device,” MSF said, quoting a 41-year-old who fled Raqqa after losing seven family members in the fighting. “And if you get to live, you are besieged by hunger and thirst, as there is no food, no water, no electricity.”
The US-led coalition, which operates in both Syria and neighbouring Iraq, says it takes all possible measures to avoid civilian casualties.
In August, it acknowledged the deaths of 624 civilians in its attacks in Syria and Iraq since 2014, but rights groups say the number is much higher.
The United Nations estimates there are up to 25,000 civilians trapped inside the city, with food and fuel supplies short and prohibitively expensive.
The UN’s humanitarian point man for Syria, Jan Egeland, has said ISIL-held territory in Raqqa city is now “the worst place” in the war-torn country.
The Syrian conflict, which began with peaceful protests in March 2011 against President Bashar al-Assad, has spiralled into a multi-sided civil war. The death toll stands at more than 400,000 people killed, according to UN estimates.
Syria Air Strike: At Least 42 Civilians
Killed by US-led Bomb Attack in Raqqa, Report Activists
19 children and 12 women said to be among dead
Samuel Osborne / The Independent
(August 22, 2017) — US-led coalition air strikes killed at least 42 civilians after targeting densely-populated neighbourhoods of the ISIS-controlled Syrian city of Raqqa, a monitoring group has said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead included 19 children and 12 women. The activist-run group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently said 32 people were killed in air strikes on one neighbourhood alone. Syrian state media said the air strikes killed dozens.
They all blamed the US-led coalition.
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said its civilian casualty team would assess the allegations.
A spokesperson for CENTCOM told The Independent:
“The Coalition takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and assesses all credible allegations of possible civilian casualties. Coalition forces work diligently and deliberately to be precise in our airstrikes.
“Coalition forces comply with the law of armed conflict and take all reasonable precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.”
They added: “The Coalition respects human life and is assisting partner forces in their effort to liberate their land from ISIS while safeguarding civilians. Our goal is always for zero civilian casualties.”
ISIS is taking heavy losses in Syria, where Kurdish and Arab militias backed by the US-led coalition have captured swathes of its territory in the north and are assaulting its former “capital” of Raqqa.
Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition against ISIS, said around 2,000 ISIS fighters remained in Raqqa and as much as 60 per cent of the city had been retaken.
An estimated 25,000 civilians remain in the city and are at risk of being used as human shields by ISIS.
The jihadi group is now falling back deeper into the Euphrates valley region of eastern Syria.
US officials said ISIS had 40,000 foreign fighters from 110 countries across Syria and Iraq in 2014, but since then they are believed to have lost 70,000 square kilometers of territory – 78 per cent of the territory they used to hold in Iraq, and 58 per cent of the territory they used to hold in Syria.
US-led Strikes Kill More than 170 Raqqa Civilians, Monitor, Sources Say
Suleiman Al-Khalidi / Reuters
AMMAN (August 22, 2017) — More than 170 civilians have been killed by US-led strikes on Islamic State in Raqqa city in the past week, a spike in casualties since an offensive to oust the militants began more than two months ago, a war monitor and sources said.
The US-led coalition against Islamic State said attacks on militant targets were conducted routinely and the allegation had been sent to their teams for assessment.
The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 42 people, including 19 children and 12 women, were killed on Monday in strikes that destroyed buildings where families were sheltering.
The Britain-based Observatory said that was the single largest daily death toll since the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), a group of Kurdish and Arab militias, began their assault on Raqqa last June after a long campaign to isolate Islamic State inside the city. Former Raqqa residents in touch with relatives still in the city echoed this view to Reuters.
The US-led coalition says it is careful to avoid civilian casualties in its bombing runs against Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, and investigates any allegations.
“The Coalition respects human life and is assisting partner forces in their effort to liberate their land from ISIS while safeguarding civilians. Our goal is always for zero civilian casualties,” a statement sent to Reuters by the Pentagon said
The Observatory said bombs that hit the al-Sakhani and Harat al-Bado districts on Monday were close to a multi-storey residential building that had been bombed the day before, killing at least 27 civilians, including seven children.
Former Raqqa residents in touch with relatives gave a higher death toll, saying many bodies were still under rubble.
The SDF alliance, spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has been waging fierce battles inside the Old City area of Raqqa since last month. Fighting is now intensifying near the city center as the US-backed forces close in on Islamic State.
Footage of the Old City released by activists showed extensive damage to buildings around the historic Old Mosque.
Amaq, an Islamic State-affiliated news agency, released a video on Monday showing at least a dozen corpses, many of them children, lying on the floor. It claimed the video was shot in Raqqa on Monday and showed victims of coalition air strikes, as well as extensive damage to residential areas. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.
An activist-run group “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” said it had documented at least 946 civilian deaths since the Raqqa offensive began in June.
The United Nations says at least 200,000 people have fled Raqqa in recent months and that up to 20,000 civilians remain trapped inside.
The plight of civilians left in the city has worsened, with water cut off for over two months and shortages of food, leaving many of those remaining living on canned foods.
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