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U.S. Led Coalition In Syria Killed Nearly 500 Innocent Civilians In One Month

The current American-led campaign against ISIS in Syria has led to the deaths of nearly 500 civilians, according to a United Nations study:

The US-led coalition killed nearly 500 civilians in one month in its pursuit of Islamic State militants in Syria, in what the United Nations has called a “staggering loss of life”.

Some 470 civilians, including 137 children, died in air strikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil)-held cities of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria between May 23 and June 23.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights SOHR) monitor said the period saw the highest civilian death toll in coalition raids for a single month since they began on September 23, 2014.  The figure was more than double the previous 30-day toll.

Observers claim the number is higher than those killed by Russian strikes, Isil and President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the same period.

Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR’s director, said that the new deaths brought the overall civilian toll from the coalition’s campaign in Syria to 1,953, including 456 children and 333 women.

Human rights and monitoring groups have warned for months of the rising human cost of the coalition’s air war, particularly as the battle for Isil’s so-called capital of Raqqa intensifies

The US, UK and other coalition members have provided air support for allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the ground.

The coalition insists it takes every measure to avoid hitting civilians, but residents say they are increasingly becoming collateral damage.

“We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chairman of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said earlier this month.

In March, more than 200 mostly women and children were reported to have been killed while they seeking refuge in a school building in the village of Mansoura.

Alarmingly high civilian tolls are also being reported in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where the battle to dislodge the jihadists is in the final throes.

.One of the reasons for the high level of civilian casualties appears to be a reliance on air power to advance the offensive against ISIS. For example, in one incident in March more than 150 civilians were killed in a March 17th incident when a 500lb bomb was dropped on a house in order to take out two ISIS snipers who had taken refuge on the roof of the building. It’s unclear if there was an effort made to determine if there were civilians in the building before the bomb was dropped.

Obviously, it’s hard to avoid civilian casualties when you’re dealing with an enemy that hides out among a civilian population. Israel has faced the same problem in its various skirmishes with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and sometimes it’s unavoidable or its simply the case that the authorities on the ground may not know there are civilians in the area. At the same time, though, this isn’t exactly the best way to fight a war like this since it’s like to create as many enemies as it kills.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Andy says:

    At the same time, though, this isn’t exactly the best way to fight a war like this since it’s like to create as many enemies as it kills.

    What’s your alternative?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    it’s hard to avoid civilian casualties when you’re dealing with an enemy that hides out among a civilian population.

    It’s also hard to avoid civilian casualties when you choose to fight at a distance. Regardless, civilians always get caught in the middle.

    This does raise a question in my mind though: How much higher are the civilian casualties since Trump authorized the military to prosecute these wars however they saw fit, as opposed to the much more stringent rules Obama had in place?

    At the same time, though, this isn’t exactly the best way to fight a war like this since it’s like to create as many enemies as it kills.

    Which is exactly why Obama had those rules in place. Of course, the best way to avoid causing civilian casualties is to not get involved to begin with, not always the best course of action. Glad I don’t have to make those decisions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Andy: Don’t destabilize other people’s countries and governments regardless of how you feel about the governments in question? Don’t pick fights you’re not willing to be atrocious to win? Don’t side with people who you don’t know will be better than the alternative–especially when they may not have the firepower to win or the organization to rule even if they do win? Don’t start a war you won’t be willing to finish? Don’t go to war to fight for land that you don’t really want to control?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  4. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I’d add another something else: get it through our collective noggin that regime change makes things worse, not better, and destabilizes a region even more than the status quo. This is the mistake we keep repeating over and over again – Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, now Syria – and we never learn. We’ve got to get over our WWII-Liberation-of-Paris nostalgia and see things as they are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. MBunge says:

    A surge in civilian deaths is terrible but what is the alternative? We’ve been killing civilians over there for nearly three years without anyone in our mainstream politics giving a damn. Perhaps those deaths, as horrible as they are, indicate that we are at least trying to DO something to resolve the situation, rather than being content with a futile and murderous status quo.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  6. wr says:

    @MBunge: “Perhaps those deaths, as horrible as they are, indicate that we are at least trying to DO something to resolve the situation, rather than being content with a futile and murderous status quo.”

    Says thoughtful Mike, nestled snugly at home, knowing that no one he cares about will kill or be killed, and so able to find justification in the slaughter.

    Tomorrow: Mike gets a paper cut and wants to sue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @MBunge: Considering how strongly you feel about it, all that I can hope is that you are urging your children or grandchildren to be part of the we have to do something force rather than expecting other people’s children to go. I don’t actually believe that you will, but I can hope.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. Davebo says:

    @MBunge:

    rather than being content with a futile and murderous status quo.

    Ironic comment on a post about our actions creating an even more murderous status quo.

    Which month has the Syrian regime killed 500 innocent civilians lately?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. gVOR08 says:

    This will sound facetious, but my intent is serious. “We must do something” ranks right up with “hold my beer” as the predicate of something stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. dazedandconfused says:

    Causalties are low because we are using air power, not high. We killed far more French liberating France than the Germans did. This was primarily due to a lack of precision munitions.

    “We liberated the hell out of that place.”

    There seems to be a growing consensus that war can be sterilized. This is perhaps why we didn’t give enough of a damn when Bush II got us to support the second Iraq war with semi-transparent BS. It was so easily countered. Saddam wouldn’t let us in some facilities? We could have simply destroyed one or two of them and see if he changes his mind on that. Camps in the north? Why not just invade them…like maybe to verify?

    Blix was ignored too.

    Would all that have happened if our thoughts on war had not been modified by the walk-over of Gulf War 1? I doubt it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Slugger says:

    It has occurred to me that the refugee problem would be less if conditions didn’t create so many. And by conditions I mean unconstitutional use of American military force in a country that never attacked us. This must rank as Obama’s biggest mistake, and one that Trump is persisting in. A Greek Christian from Syria once asked me why the US always follows Saudi Arabia’s direction in deploying force in the Middle East; I had no answer that did not make us look venal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0