US Airstrike Kills 8 Members of Fleeing Family in Syria; US Drone Kills 3 Civilians in Yemen
April 25, 2017 Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Philip Issa / Associated Press & Mohammed Mukhashaf / Reuters
Reports from multiple local groups in Syria say that the family of eight, including five children aged 15 or under, were in a vehicle fleeing the town, and that the US attacked and destroyed the vehicle, killing all within. The Pentagon has yet to comment on the killings. Meanwhile, three Yemeni civilians were killed when a US drone attacked four suspected al Qaeda militants traveling in a vehicle. The attack was part of the Trump administration's escalating war against an al Qaeda branch in Yemen.
US Airstrike Kills Family of Eight Fleeing Syria Fighting Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 24, 2017) -- US officials have made much of Kurdish YPG forces attacking the town of Tabqa, which is at least somewhat under ISIS control. Locals are trying to flee the fighting, however, and that seems to be where the US is most involved, attacking and killing a family of eight outside of Tabqa as they tried to get away.
Reports from multiple local groups say that the family of eight, including five children aged 15 or under, were in a vehicle fleeing the town, and that the US attacked and destroyed the vehicle, killing all within. The Pentagon has yet to comment on the killings.
Usually, when the US blows up a vehicle full of unidentified people, the victims are labeled "suspects," whether or not there were children among them. This appears to be difficult in this case, with multiple NGOs that had been documenting ISIS abuses in the area unwilling to keep silent on the incident.
Civilian deaths have been soaring in recent months in the US air war in both Iraq and Syria, though the official Pentagon count is virtually unchanged, with officials admitting to less than 10% of the civilians slain in cases documented by NGOs. Most such incidents aren't even investigated by the Pentagon, which dismisses them out of hand as "not credible."
The War in Syria:
Blast Hits Bus Convoy near Aleppo
April 16, 2017) -- Targeted as they travelled to safety -- over 100 people are killed as a suicide bomber attacks people evacuated from towns held by the Syrian regime. Airstrike Kills 8 Family Members in Northern Syria Philip Issa / Associated Press
BEIRUT (April 24, 2017) -- An airstrike killed eight family members, five of them children, as they fled fighting between US-allied Syrian forces and Islamic State militants on Monday, according to local activists, who said the strike appeared to have been launched by the US-led coalition.
Al-Qaida's leader meanwhile urged his followers and other militants in Syria to unite and prepare for protracted jihad, or holy war, against what he called an "international satanic alliance," apparently referring to the Syrian government, its ally Russia, and the US, all of which are targeting the group.
The family was fleeing fighting in the northern Syrian town of Tabqa when their vehicle was struck, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said the five children were between six months and 15 years old.
The activist-run Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently also reported the airstrike, saying a family was killed.
The US.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which also include Arab fighters, are trying to expel IS from Tabqa before moving on to Raqqa, the de facto capital of the jihadi group. Tabqa is 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Raqqa.
The US and its allies are believed to be the only forces flying missions over Tabqa. The Observatory said the US-backed fighters entered Tabqa on Monday but the town remains largely under IS control.
The Islamic State group and al-Qaida have been bitter rivals since they split apart in 2013, with the former claiming to represent the world's Muslims in an apocalyptic showdown with the West and the latter fighting alongside the Syrian opposition.
Al-Qaida won allies among the opposition early in the civil war because of its military prowess. Al-Qaida's official branch, the Nusra Front, changed its name to the Fatah al-Sham Front and formally cut ties with al-Qaida last year, but is still widely seen as being linked to the global terror network.
In a recording released late Sunday, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri called on Syria's various jihadi factions to unite in order to wage guerrilla war.
He cast the Syrian conflict as part of a wider struggle aimed at imposing Islamic rule on the region and beyond. The local leaders of the Fatah al-Sham Front have tended to portray its struggle as being confined to Syria.
The Fatah al-Sham Front is perhaps the most powerful rebel-aligned faction, but dozens of other factions -- both hard-line Islamists and more mainstream groups -- are also battling Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. Fatah al-Sham Front is the commanding faction in Idlib, the rebel-held province in northwestern Syria.
Zawahri, who became the global leader of al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden was killed in a US raid in 2011, made his last public broadcast in May 2016, when he issued an audio message calling for unity among fighters in Syria.
Meanwhile, authorities began a sixth round of evacuations on Monday for civilians and fighters from the opposition-held neighborhood of al-Waer in Homs, Syria's third largest city, activists and Syrian state media reported.
Government forces have besieged the neighborhood since 2013, according to the Washington-based monitoring group Siege Watch. Rebels, opposition activists and their families agreed to vacate the district in an agreement signed in March in exchange for the end of hostilities.
The government will retake control of the neighborhood after the last of twelve rounds of evacuations are complete, in an expected three to four weeks, according to local media activist Osama Abou Zeid.
He said about 16,000 people are expected to leave the neighborhood, instead of reconciling themselves with the government's notorious security services. Siege Watch estimates there have been 60,000 people trapped under the siege.
An estimated 1,800 people, including some 500 fighters, left on Monday, said Abou Zeid. They are being taken to Jarablus, a town on the Turkish border that is under the control of Turkish troops and Syrian opposition forces.
Tens of thousands of people living in besieged areas around Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo -- Syria's largest city -- have surrendered after prolonged sieges in exchange for safe relocation to opposition-held areas elsewhere in the country. Another 8,000 people have left two pro-government towns in northern Syria, which were besieged by rebels.
Critics say the population transfers are redrawing Syria's map along sectarian and political lines.
In northern Syria, warplanes struck the town where a chemical attack that was widely blamed on government forces killed nearly 90 people earlier this month. The government has denied using chemical weapons.
The airstrikes in the opposition-held northern town of Khan Sheikhoun killed at least four people and wounded 10 others, according to the activist-run Thiqa News Agency and Edlib Media Center. It was not immediately clear who carried out the strike.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least five people, including a child, were killed in the attack on a vegetable market.
Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Hashem Osseiran in Beirut contributed to this report.
ADEN (April 24, 2017) -- Three Yemeni civilians were killed when a drone attacked four suspected al Qaeda militants traveling in a vehicle in the southern part of the country, residents and a local official said on Monday.
Residents said the attack in al-Saeed area of Shabwa province on Sunday afternoon was by a United States drone, part of a campaign by President Donald Trump's administration against Yemen's al Qaeda branch.
They said Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was known to operate in the area and had been targeted by US forces in recent months.
The vehicle was completely destroyed in the drone strike, which also hit three civilians who happened to be passing nearby, the residents and local officials said.
AQAP has exploited two years of civil war to recruit followers and cement its dominance in the central and southern part of Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis to try to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power.
The Houthis seized much of northern Yemen including Sanaa in a series of lightning military operations that began in 2014, eventually forcing Hadi to flee. The Houthis regard their move on Sanaa as a revolution against corruption.
The United States has repeatedly attacked AQAP with aircraft and unmanned drones in what US officials say is a campaign to degrade the group's ability to coordinate attacks abroad.
The new US administration has not yet laid out a clear policy on drone strikes, but Trump has said he would support an escalation of the fight against Islamist militant groups.
US drone strikes have become more frequent in recent weeks, with at least six reported by Reuters last month.
In late January, at least 30 people were killed in a US commando dawn raid in southern Yemen, including at least 10 women and children, in the first such military operation authorized by President Donald Trump.
The previous administration regularly used drones to attack Islamic State, al Qaeda and other militant groups in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Human rights groups criticize the tactic because of civilian casualties.
Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters.
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