Dozens of Syrian Civilians Killed in Air Strikes on Raqqa
March 20, 2016
Reuters & IBTimes & The Independent
Dozens of people were killed in a series of air strikes on the city of Raqqa in northern Syria on Saturday – despite a cessation of hostilities in Syria that took effect three weeks ago. More than 600 civilians may have been killed by coalition bombs in Iraq and Syria. Civilians have been routinely killed by coalition, government and Russian airstrikes on Syrian cities. Month after month, airstrikes on Syrian cities have continued to kill innocent men, women and children.
Dozens Killed in Air Strikes on Syria's Raqqa
John Davison / Reuters
BEIRUT (March 19, 2016) -- Dozens of people were killed in a series of air strikes on the city of Raqqa in northern Syria on Saturday, a monitoring group and activists said, as Damascus and Moscow waged attacks on areas controlled by Islamic State.
A cessation of hostilities in Syria took effect three weeks ago, reducing violence but not halting the fighting as peace talks take place in Geneva. The deal does not include al Qaeda or Islamic State militants, whose de facto capital in Syria is Raqqa.
Russia has been pulling out its attack aircraft after announcing a partial withdrawal from Syria, where its air campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad has turned fighting in his favor.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 39 people had been killed and dozens more wounded in the raids on Raqqa.
An activist group with sources in Raqqa, called Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said more than 40 had been killed, and that separate strikes hit areas in the north of Raqqa province.
The Observatory said the dead included seven women and five children. It said it was not clear whether Syrian or Russian warplanes had conducted the air strikes.
Separately, Russian warplanes hit the Islamic State-held historic city of Palmyra and its immediate vicinity with some 70 air strikes, the Observatory said, killing at least 18 Islamic State fighters.
Government forces and their allies are aiming to capture Palmyra, some 200 km southwest of Raqqa and also held by Islamic State since May. The Observatory said 16 people were also killed in air strikes in Raqqa on Friday.
ISIS In Syria: Airstrikes Against Sunni Militant Group
Kill Over 40 People In Raqqa And Deir El-Zour
Vishakha Sonawane / IBTimes
(January 23, 2016) -- Over 40 people have been killed in northern and eastern Syrian cities of Raqqa and Deir el-Zour in air campaign against the Islamic State group over the past 24 hours, Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday. The report comes almost a week after the monitor said last Sunday that ISIS killed at least 135 people and abducted 400 civilians during a daylong assault in Deir el-Zour.
According to the UK-based monitoring group, 30 civilians were killed in airstrikes in Deir el-Zour, including 13 children and eight women. The observatory added that the death toll is expected to increase because some of those injured were in critical condition.
In Raqqa city, the de facto capital of the ISIS in Syria, 27 people -- all civilians -- were killed by aerial bombardment. The deceased included nine children and seven women and the number of deaths is likely to rise, the group said.
Last Sunday, ISIS killed at least 85 civilians and 50 pro-government forces. The deaths took place in Al-Baghaliyeh neighborhood, located in parts of Deir el-Zour, according to the monitor.
"The legal and moral responsibility for this barbaric and cowardly massacre committed by ISIS hordes lies on the shoulders of all the states that support terrorism and that fund and arm takfiri [Sunni extremist] organizations," Syria's state news agency SANA quoted Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi as saying at the time.
Russian Air Strikes in Syria Kill 34 Civilians
Including '6 Children and 11 Women'
Rose Troup Buchanan / The Independent
(December 18, 2015) -- A Syrian activist group has claimed Russian air strikes have killed at least 34 civilians in the past two days -- including six children and 11 women.
Two air strikes targeted al-Bab city, Azaz town in Aleppo province, as well as Isis's self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR).
The group claims six children and 11 women were killed in the strike, as well as two rescue workers, according to the SOHR's head Rami Abdel Rahman. He claimed no suspected militants had been killed in the attack.
Kurdish fighters battling the extremists have claimed the group has been substantially weakened by air strikes. "Daesh (Isis) is becoming weaker and weaker after our recent offensive in al-Hawl," a YPG (People's Protection Units) commander told Sky News.
Russia began launching strikes into Syria roughly 10 weeks ago in the face of global criticism, with Philip Hammond recently claiming the Kremlin's forces were targeting opposition forces rather than Isis positions.
Despite this, other nations -- among them the UK -- have subsequently joined a US-led coalition against Isis, also known as the Islamic State or Daesh, and also launched strikes into Syria.
On Friday, officials in Washington confirmed three coalition strikes had apparently destroyed an Isis mortar position and two fighting positions.
More than 250,000 people have been killed by the conflict in Syria. The chaos in the country has echoed across the region, displacing millions and precipitating one of the largest migrations in recent human history.
Syria Air Strikes: 'At Least Five Children Killed'
In Raqqa School as Britain Debates Joining Bombing
Lizzie Dearden / The Independent
(November26, 2015) -- At least five children have been killed in an air strike on a school in Isis' Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, activists report.
Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a collective of citizen journalists chronicling the extremist group's atrocities, said eight civilians were killed and 12 more wounded at "Heten" school.
A photo published by the group on social media appeared to show large pieces of metal shrapnel from rockets used in the raid. The area around the school has reportedly been used by Isis militants to stage gruesome punishments inflicted under its interpretation of sharia law.
RBSS founder Abu Mohammed wrote that a young man had his hand cut off after being accused of stealing a motorbike earlier on Thursday and the group reported a woman being stoned to death in front of Heten school after being accused of adultery in August.
Activists did not say which country was believed to have launched today's strike but Raqqa is a key target for the US-led international coalition bombing Isis. The US has admitted accidentally killing children and civilians in Syrian strikes, while several cases are still under investigation and other countries have been accused of hitting non-Isis targets.
Of at least 3,952 people killed so far in the coalition campaign in Syria, roughly 250 were civilians, according to a Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report.
The group found the toll from Russian strikes was far higher, counting 403 civilian deaths including 166 women and children on top of 7,000 civilians allegedly killed in 13 months of air strikes by Bashar al-Assad's regime forces. The count could not be independently verified.
The latest alleged civilian casualties came as British MPs debated David Cameron's proposal to extend RAF air strikes from Iraq into Syria. He urged the House of Commons to support the intervention it rejected two years ago, saying it would protect the UK against the threat posed by Isis terror. But Jeremy Corbyn said he could not support the move and wrote a letter to Labour MPs arguing the Prime Minister had not laid out a "coherent strategy".
Francois Hollande has been pushing for a widened international coalition against Isis and was meeting Vladimir Putin in Moscow today. The French President increased efforts to unite France, the US and Russia and other nations following the Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
Isis claimed responsibility for the atrocity as well as the Beirut bombings and downing of a Russian passenger plane in an unprecedented slew of terror attacks over the past month.
US-led Airstrikes in Syria:
Only Two Civilian Deaths Have Been Admitted To –
That Would Be Extraordinary, If It Were True
Chris Woods / The Independent
(August 4, 2015) -- The first year of the international Coalition's air war against Isis has already seen more than 17,000 bombs and missiles dropped on Iraq and Syria, as part of 5,700 air strikes. This is a brutal and challenging conflict.
As John Hesterman, the US general leading the air campaign recently noted, "[Isis] wrapped itself around a friendly population before we even started." The air strikes have followed the enemy into those towns and cities under their occupation -- and friendly populations have paid a price.
So far the coalition has conceded just two civilian deaths -- young girls slain during a US strike on a Syrian al-Qaeda faction back in November. Asked how many other non-combatants have died, officials demurred: "We aren't going to speculate on this subject," one senior CENTCOM spokesman recently told me.
There's rather less discomfort when it comes to boasting of how many enemy fighters are dead: 15,000 at their last count.
Addressing this information gap, the monitoring group I head up, Airwars, has examined all known claims of civilian deaths during the last year. In this time there were almost 120 such alleged incidents of non-combatants being affected by air-strikes across Iraq and Syria. Some are currently poorly reported. Others are contested -- with the Syrian or Iraqi militaries also accused of carrying out the attack.
Yet in more than 50 cases we felt there was enough evidence -- often including photographs, eyewitness testimony and the names of victims -- to strongly indicate civilians had been killed by the coalition. It's likely that between 459 and 591 non-combatants died in these attacks, including 100 children.
Who killed these civilians is proving much harder to identify. Of the 12 nations that have so far bombed Daesh in Iraq and Syria, only Canada has consistently said where and when it attacks.
At the bottom of the accountability list is Bahrain, which has said nothing of its airstrikes in Syria. Barely any improvement are Australia and Belgium, while a Danish official once said his military would prefer "to hide in the crowd" rather than say where it was bombing.
According to the coalition, each participating country is individually liable for the civilians it kills. So transparency matters. Britain is better at reporting its airstrikes than many.
Every two weeks or so the MoD tells us where its Tornados have dropped bombs in Iraq. Yet it's only a partial picture. Half of all British airstrikes are by the UK's Reaper drones -- and the MoD refuses to say where they bomb. The best we get at times is "elsewhere in Iraq."
So when the Ministry of Defence asserts that "We are not aware of any incidents of civilian casualties as a result of UK strike activity over Iraq," it's impossible to test that claim publicly. We're unable to know whether Britain's Reapers carried out airstrikes at the 61 locations where civilian deaths have so far been alleged for Iraq alone.
And with eight other nations also bombing that country -- never mind Iraqi and Iranian aircraft -- there is little chance of accountability for those civilians affected. Syria is even more of a free-for-all, with Israeli and Turkish jets carrying out strikes alongside the Coalition and the Assad regime.
First in Libya -- and now for Iraq and Syria -- we've been sold the idea that wars from the air can be risk-free. But for those on the ground, the risks continue to be very real indeed. Should MPs eventually vote to extend British airstrikes against Isis to Syria, they might bear one particular fact in mind: civilians on the ground will almost certainly die as a consequence.
Chris Woods is the Director of Airwars.org, an independent monitoring group which tracks international Coalition airstrikes and reported casualties for Iraq and Syria.
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