TEHRAN (FNA)- A new report from human rights group Amnesty International is harshly critical of the tactics used by the United States to bomb the once ISIL-held city of Mosul, saying they flagrantly violated International Law and might amount to war crimes.
Amnesty research director Lynn Maalouf has been quick to note that ISIL had unlawfully used human shields, but that this does not lessen the legal obligation of US forces to protect civilians. That position is true from a legal perspective, but appears to stand in contrast to the Pentagon’s statements, which have couched all of the biggest incidents of civilian deaths in their airstrikes as ISIL’s fault. Indeed, the US “Law of War Manual” has struggled with this issue in recent revisions.
Amnesty officials criticized the use of imprecise explosive weapons in the attacks on densely populated parts of Mosul that were known to be full of civilians unable to escape, saying it was inappropriate, and amounted to repeated violations of International Law with respect to targeting civilians. Amnesty also took issue with the drastic under reporting of civilian deaths in Mosul, saying 5,805 were likely killed in just a four month span. While the Pentagon hasn’t offered its own figures for that entire period yet, their figures for the four months are likely to be no more than a couple of hundred.
Since Pentagon officials are naturally dismissive of the reports, it makes sense for the international civil society to step in and ensure that the United States won’t be killing a high number of civilians in its ongoing airstrikes on Raqqa as well.
After all, the US-led coalition has already admitted killing at least 484 civilians in air strikes in Syria and Iraq amid concern over potential war crimes in the battle to drive ISIL out of Raqqa. US Central Command (CentCom) insists it “takes extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimizes the risk of civilian casualties” but claims, “In some incidents casualties are unavoidable.”
The number of men, women and children killed in the US-led campaign has rocketed since the start of the Raqqa offensive, seeing densely populated residential districts pummeled by air strikes and artillery. Britain is also among the countries claiming it has killed no civilians, despite carrying out hundreds of air strikes in Syria and Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the name given to the military intervention against ISIL.
The United Nations has warned that civilians are “increasingly paying the price” as bombing escalates and terrorists seek bloody retribution. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has condemned ISIL for using civilians as human shields but cautioned: “It is far from clear that the fundamental principles of international law are being properly adhered to by all the various air forces engaged in the fight against ISIL. The same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by ISIL are also falling victim to the escalating air strikes.”
It is time for all states operating air forces in the Syrian war, mainly the US and UK, to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians as required under International Law. Lest they forget, just because ISIL holds an area does not mean less care can be taken. Civilians should always be protected, whether they are in areas controlled by ISIL or by any other terrorist group.
Into the argument, when it comes to the ongoing battle in the densely-populated city of Raqqa, the US and its allies should choose protection over annihilation. There are good reasons for this. The first is legal. International Law requires parties to a conflict to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians, and the use of intense air strikes in populated areas may be deemed illegal.
Second, the US and its allies have a strategic interest in making every effort to spare civilians. If the costs of defeating ISIL are high civilian deaths and destruction, civilians may be unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of the post-ISIL order. And the seeds of cyclical violence, retribution and the rebirth of ISIL, or something even worse, will be sown. The bottom line is that ISIL wants civilian deaths. The US and its partners should know better and not give that to them if their real obejctive is war on ISIL.
Lastly, there is there is no longer any public accountability. On May 26, the Pentagon regime confirmed that it will no longer acknowledge when its aircraft are responsible for civilian casualty incidents in Syria; rather they will be hidden under the umbrella of the “coalition.” The United States military has been responsible for 95 percent of airstrikes in Syria and 68 percent in Iraq. Centcom should own up to its own war crimes rather than dispersing responsibility.
Read Amnesty International’s Full Report
US Sets Up Military Base in Northern Syria as American Forces Enter Raqqa City
TEHRAN (FNA)- Footage released recently revealed that the US is operating an airbase in the Eastern parts of Aleppo near the provincial border with Raqqa.
According to AMN, the footage showed a large US plane taking off and plenty of Humvees protecting the site.
Also, an American flag is hoisted above the air field which is located in the territory controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
Meanwhile, Colonel Ryan Dillon, the US-led Coalition Spokesman, confirmed dozens of US military advisors were deployed inside Raqqa city with US marines providing artillery support against the ISIL from the surrounding areas.
He said the troops, many of them special operations forces, are working in an “advise, assist and accompany” role to support Kurdish fighters in battle against ISIL.
“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon added.
He stressed that the number of US forces in Raqqa was “not hundreds” and that they had been working closely with SDF fighters since the operations to encircle Raqqa began.
The Pentagon is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously declared that some 500 US special forces are there to train and assist the SDF.
Kurds heavily assisted by US soldiers and bombers – have captured some 35% of Raqqa city despite facing fierce resistance from the ISIL militants.
Meantime, other reports said that the US-led forces have several times transferred the ISIL leaders from Iraq and Syria to other regions by heliborne operations.
Local sources reported on Wednesday that three military helicopters of the US-led coalition carried out another heliborne operation in Eastern Homs, carrying a number of ISIL terrorists on board.
The Arabic-language al-Hadath news quoted the sources as saying that a group of ISIL terrorists were transferred by a van from the town of Ayash in Eastern Deir Ezzur to a ISIL-held desert region in the Eastern direction of the town of al-Sukhnah in Eastern Homs, where three helicopters of the US-led coalition were hovering over the region.
One of the helicopters landed but the other two continued to fly over the region.
The sources told al-Hadath that the three helicopters flew towards North and entered Raqqa airspace, adding that there is no information about their exact destination.
The sources further said that the ISIL militants taken away by the American choppers could have been one of the spying groups used by Washington via Jeish Maqavir al-Thowrah militant group to materialize its objectives in the region.