Coalition will investigate own airstrike that reportedly killed 30+ civilians in Syria – Pentagon

The Pentagon will aid in investigating reports that at least 33 civilian died near the Syrian town of Raqqa during a US-led coalition airstrike, officials said on Wednesday, following accusations from both local media and monitoring groups based abroad.

“At this time, we have no indication that an airstrike struck civilians near Raqqa as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims,” said an official statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“However, since we have conducted several strikes near Raqqa we will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further investigation.”

“CJTF-OIR [Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve] takes all reports of civilian casualties seriously and assesses all incidents as thoroughly as possible. Coalition forces work diligently to be precise in our airstrikes. Coalition forces comply with the Law of Armed Conflict and take all feasible precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.”

 
According to local media reports, bombs from a US-led coalition plane hit a school in Al-Badia Al-Ad Dakhiliyah in the south of Al-Mansur, where at least 50 families from Raqqa, Palmyra, and Aleppo had been taking shelter. The school building itself was completely destroyed.
 
 

Al-Mansu is around 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) west of Raqqa, which is held by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

 
Earlier in March, officials from Operation Inherent Resolve admitted responsibility for at least 220 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq during their campaign against IS. However, the monitoring group Airwars has asserted that this figure may be far below the real death toll, which may be as high as 2,700.

The Pentagon admitted that it had carried out 19 strikes near Raqqa on Monday, three of which destroyed a local IS base. The airstrikes are meant to support the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of armed groups currently advancing on Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the extremist Islamist group.

On March 16, a mosque packed with worshipers in the Syrian village of Al-Jinah was hit by a missile strike in which at least 50 people were reportedly killed. The Pentagon has denied responsibility, claiming that it had targeted a nearby town hall being used as a meeting place for IS, with spokesman Captain Jeff Davis claiming the mosque remained “relatively unscathed,” despite video evidence to the contrary.

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Whether from ISIS shells or US-led coalition bombs, civilians suffering in Mosul

The fight for Mosul, Islamic State’s capital in Iraq, is taking a heavy toll on the city’s civilian population. RT recounts the horrifying stories of some of the victims.

While the US-led coalition claims it does everything possible to avoid “collateral damage” when conducting airstrikes on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), in reality, civilians wounded in their attacks are suffering just the same as those hurt by the shells and snipers of the jihadists.

Here are some of the stories that victims told RT’s sister video agency, Ruptly, about the siege in Mosul.

Iraq: Severely injured 5-yo girl sole survivor of Mosul airstrike

Five-year-old Hawraa was severely injured on March 16, when an airstrike destroyed her family’s home in the Jadeda neighborhood, said her father Ala, who believes the bombs were intended for IS fighters manning a shooting position in a house nearby.

“There were four people in the house, only she survived,” he said. Hawraa’s mother was among those killed in the coalition airstrike.

Iraq: Civilians trapped under rubble after deadly airstrikes destroy Mosul homes *GRAPHIC*

When airstrikes destroyed several houses on Tal Alruman street on March 11, as many as 25 people were left trapped under the debris, and their neighbors and relatives were unable to get them out, Fath Ahmad Abdulla, whose brother was among the victims, told Ruptly.

“ISIS was fighting here, behind the house. They tried to run behind the school. Then the house was bombed by aircraft,” he explained.

Another resident, Abdulhamed Mahmud, said more than 100 houses had been hit by airstrikes in the neighborhood since the siege began.

Ibrahim Rfaee was burying his grandmother Khalas when Ruptly interviewed him on March 12. Khalas was killed by a stray bullet while fleeing Mosul’s Tal Alruman district, which has been subjected to what he called “random bombing” by the coalition.

“Daesh go on the rooftops of the houses and the families don’t know. Then the aircrafts come and bomb it,” he explained, referring to the terrorist group by its Arabic acronym. “We are asking the coalition planes to be specific when they bomb. They were bombing randomly,” he stressed.

Iraq: Victims of Iraqi forces and IS fighters treated at hospital in Kurdistan

On March 7, Ruptly interviewed several patients at West Erbil Emergency Hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan, who were being treated for injuries received during the Mosul siege.

“When the army entered our neighborhood, they started fighting with ISIS, and we were in the middle, on the receiving end of both sides,” one Mosul resident said.

“ISIS came and kicked us out of our house. We ran looking for a safe place, and suddenly there was an explosion,” said another. “My father was injured and my brother was killed. My younger brother and sister were hit on the head and I was hit on the shoulder.”

READ MORE: 360° car bomb: Death machine filmed by RT Ruptly in bombed-out Mosul house (VIDEO)

There are an estimated 600,000 civilians caught in the crossfire of the Mosul operation, with tens of thousands fleeing the violence over the past month. The number of civilian deaths is difficult to estimate, and it is even harder to attribute them to either IS attacks or US-coalition airstrikes.

The US has given a conservative figure of 200 for civilian deaths inflicted by coalition airstrikes in Mosul, but a UK-based monitoring group, Airwars, says the true number may be more than ten times higher.

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‘They were bombing randomly’: Mosul civilians doubt coalition’s careful targeting claims

The US-led coalition fighting to retake Mosul says it takes every precaution to assure civilians are not harmed in its airstrikes on Islamic State militants, but those who have lost family members in coalition attacks doubt the veracity of that claim.

“Daesh [Islamic State, IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] go on the rooftops of the houses and the families don’t know, then the aircraft come and bomb it,” Mosul resident Ibrahim Rfaee told RT’s Ruptly, referring to the terrorist group by its derogative Arabic acronym.

Iraq: Civilians trapped under rubble after deadly airstrikes destroy Mosul homes *GRA

Ibrahim’s grandmother, Khalas, was killed last week, apparently by an IS sniper, as she was trying to escape from Mosul’s jihadist-controlled Tal Alruman neighborhood into Mahmoun, which had already been seized by Iraqi special forces. RT’s sister video agency caught up with Ibrahim and his family on Sunday as they were burying Khalas at a local cemetery.

 

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Ibrahim said the coalition is not as precise and careful in targeting its airstrikes as it claims to be in media conferences.

“We are asking for bombing specific targets. There are still families inside the houses and the aircraft keep bombing. We are asking the coalition planes to be specific when they bomb. They were bombing randomly,” he said.

Similar reports have been coming from other media outlets. The Daily Telegraph reported from the Samood neighborhood that an airstrike apparently targeting a single IS fighter had killed a dozen civilians instead, according to witnesses.

“The planes waited until one of the Daesh walked out into the street and then they struck. The fighter was only injured, but 11 members of one family in the house next door were instantly killed,” a resident named Hashem Abdullah told the British newspaper.

“They dropped leaflets over the city telling us not to worry about the strikes, saying that they were extremely precise and would not hurt the civilians,” said Yusuf Ahmed, who lost his brother and his young family to a coalition airstrike. “Now it feels like the coalition is killing more people than [Islamic State],” he said.

Iraq: Coalition planes stop 'bombing randomly' pleads Mosul resident

 The Iraqi army says it has captured about a third of the western part of Mosul. The UN estimates that 5,000 people on average have been fleeing the city every day since the siege intensified in February.

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UN ‘estimates’ death toll in Yemen war surpassed 10,000

The death toll in the Yemeni conflict has surpassed 10,000 people, according to “estimates” from a senior UN official, amidst the ongoing chaos in the war-torn country suffering a tremendous humanitarian disaster.

Trends Yemen unrest

“I don’t know the figures but the estimates are that over 10,000 people have been killed in this conflict and almost 40,000 people injured,” UN Yemen Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick told the reporters at a press conference in Sanaa.

Read more Over 4,000 civilians killed, aid blocked, zero accountability – HRW’s wrap up of Yemen war

A Houthi armed man walks past destroyed houses in the old quarter of the northwestern city of Saada, Yemen January 11, 2017 © Naif Rahma

The estimates seem to be pretty rough, since McGoldrick stated in August last year that “at least 10,000 people” had been killed in the protracted conflict.

Previous estimates voiced by McGoldrick were based on “official information” from medical facilities in Yemen, but now, many areas in the war-ravaged country have no medical facilities left. Both local and internationally-supported hospitals have been struck by Saudi-led coalition planes in numerous incidents often blamed on “mistakes” and “bad intelligence.” The statistics are scarce as the dead are often buried without any official records.

“This is a war of aggression being waged by Saudi Arabia. Civilians are being targeted, they are not simply collateral damage,” Brian Becker, National coordinator of the ANSWER coalition told RT.

While McGoldrick gave no breakdown on civilian casualties, October figures from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), states the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 4,125 civilians and left at least 7,207 wounded, with the majority of the casualties caused by coalition airstrikes.

READ MORE: Over 4,000 civilians killed, aid blocked, zero accountability – HRW’s wrap up of Yemen war

“These people are committing war crimes routinely, systematically against the people of Yemen. This amounts to Holocaust, not just war crimes it’s Holocaust,” Kim Sharif, a human rights lawyer and director of Human Rights for Yemen, told RT.

“There are about 11 million people in this country who need some sort of protection in terms of human rights, to protect their dignity and their safety,” McGoldrick added at the press conference.

Yemen’s population in 2013 was estimated around 25 million people, which means that roughly a half of Yemenis experience problems with human rights’ implementation and thus need “some sort of protection.” Over 21 million people are in urgent need of “humanitarian assistance,” according to UN World Food Program (WFP) statistics.

“And there’s another 2.9 million living in acutely affected areas, who require legal and other types of support. Some of them are related to being displacement, some of it related to gender-based violence,” McGoldrick added.

Read more 'No food, no medicine, no money’: Yemeni town faces mass death by starvation

However, “legal type of support” might be actually not the most urgent need for Yemenis, since 7.6 million people are “severely food insecure” according to UN’s own statistics.

RT’s Arabic-language crew recently visited the district of Tuhayat on the Red Sea coast, one of these “acutely affected areas.” Most people there, including children, are starving, since the Saudi-led international coalition blockaded the coastal area and deprived the locals from fishing, which was their main source of food, coupled with a an absence of medical care.

The new UN revelations documenting the scale of the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen, came as UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, arrived in the southern city of Aden, the temporary capital of the government of president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was reinstated by the Saudi-led intervention.

The UN envoy was expected to present a new peace plan to Hadi on Monday, according to a spokesman. Previous peace efforts failed, since Hadi urged the Houthis rebels to withdraw from all cities and lay down the arms, while the rebels are pressing for a political deal.

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US B-52 bombed Idlib, Syria, killing over 20 civilians – Russian MoD

More than 20 civilians were killed in a B-52 strike carried out by the US on the Idlib province in Syria on January 3, according to Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
 

Gerasimov slammed the Western coalition in Syria for failing to achieve “any meaningful results,” adding that “at the same time, significant numbers of victims among the civilian population and government forces were reported.

As we remember, in September last year, the US aviation carried out an attack in the Deir-ez-Zor targeting government forces. After this attack, Islamic State started its advance,” Gerasimov said as cited by RIA Novosti news agency.

The latest example of this is the January 3 airstrike, when a B-52 bomber – without warning the Russian side – hit a target in the town of Sarmada, Idlib Province, which is covered by the cessation of hostilities agreement. Over 20 civilians died as a result of the airstrike.

He did not provide any further details.

@RT_America BREAKING: Strike on Syrian army was ‘regrettable error’, Pentagon says http://on.rt.com/7wed

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The US Defense Department announced on January 6 that a strike had killed 20 people in Sarmada, Idlib; those killed were described as Al-Qaeda militants, AFP reported.

The September airstrikes by the US-led coalition killed 62 and injured 100 Syrian soldiers near the Deir ez-Zor airport, a vital supply conduit for the enclave besieged by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) forces.

In November, US Central Command described the incident as an “unintentional, regrettable error,” which was “primarily based on human factors.

READ MORE: Pentagon chief claims US fighting ISIS alone, Russia doing ‘virtually zero’ in Syria

Russia was notified of the planned strike via the “de-confliction” hotline, but was given the wrong location, said Brigadier General Richard ‘Tex’ Coe, who headed the CENTCOM investigation.

When Russian officers called the hotline to report the strikes were targeting Syrian positions, they were kept on hold for 27 minutes because the US officer who was the designated point of contact was not available. The bombing continued in that interval, according to Coe, and stopped once the Russian message went through.

During the Tuesday meeting, Gerasimov said the operation carried out by the Russian Air Force since September 30, 2015 “has turned the tide of the Syrian war."

Since the beginning of its operation in Syria, Russia's military jets destroyed around 200 illegal oil-extracting facilities belonging to IS, 174 oil-producing plants, 111 groups of oil tank trucks, the head of General Staff added.

"This allowed not only to breach the IS supply system, but also to deprive them of their main income," Gerasimov added.

"All strikes are carried out only after the confirmation of data from several sources, including the space intelligence and drones," Gerasimov emphasized.

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60 civilians killed, 200 injured as US-led coalition strikes Mosul residential areas – Russian MoD

Over 60 civilians have been killed and at least 200 injured during three days of US-led coalition airstrikes on residential areas in Mosul, the Russian military reported.

There were numerous attacks of the US-led coalition targeting residential areas, schools, and other civilian objects both in Mosul and in other parts of the Iraqi Nineveh Governorate,” Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, head of Operations in the Russian General Staff, told journalists on Tuesday.

We are closely monitoring the situation around Mosul. So far we see no substantial progress in liberating this city from the terrorists of ISIS,” he added, referring to the terrorist organization Islamic State by its former name.

@RT_com US-led coalition strike killed dozens of civilian mourners 30km from Kirkuk – Russian MoDhttp://on.rt.com/7soi

According to the Russian military, among the civilian objects hit by US-led coalition airstrikes was a school for girls in southern Mosul, which was attacked last Friday.

The general described the situation around the Iraqi city on the sidelines of a report about Russia’s action in Syria, where Moscow and Damascus continue a pause in the offensive in Aleppo, which is divided between the Syrian Army and various armed groups, including the terrorist organization Al-Nusra Front.

48 women & children flee rebel-held Aleppo as Damascus, Moscow cease airstrikes

Rudskoy said that Russia has not conducted sorties over and around Aleppo since last Tuesday and intends to continue holding off the warplanes. Fighting on the ground in the city resumed on Sunday, after a three-day unilateral ceasefire was derailed by insurgents, who prevented civilians from fleeing the battered city.

Iraq’s Mosul is being besieged by a ragtag coalition of uneasy allies, which includes Iraqi government forces, Shiite militias, Kurdish troops, and the Turkish Army. The US-led coalition is providing air support for the operation, which was launched a week ago.

IS fighters have since launched a number of raids on their opponents’ communications, distracting the attacking forces from Mosul. No fighting inside the city has been reported yet, although several neighborhoods were seized during the offensive.

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Moscow summons Belgian ambassador, presents data on F-16s bombing of Syrian civilians

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it has presented Alex Van Meeuwen, Belgium’s ambassador in Moscow, with evidence proving the involvement of Belgian Air Force jets in a recent airstrike on a Syrian village that killed four civilians.

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Van Meeuwen on Friday.

“During the conversation with Van Meeuwen, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov said that Moscow was puzzled by Belgium’s ongoing denial of the fact that the Belgian Air Force carried out an airstrike that killed civilians on the outskirts of Aleppo on October 18 of this year,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The Belgian diplomat [Van Meeuwen] was presented with evidence showing involvement of the Belgian Air Force in the airstrike on the village of Hassadjek. It was also mentioned that detailed info on the technical aspects of the flight of the two F-16 jets had been given to Belgium’s military attaché in Moscow by the Russian Ministry of Defense.”

 
"This [Friday] afternoon, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense handed over to the Defense Attaché of the Belgian Embassy in Moscow the alleged evidence designed to show that F-16 jets of the Belgian Air Force are responsible for the airstrike near Aleppo in the early hours of October 18, which resulted in several deaths among civilians. This alleged evidence is a map with the route of the flight allegedly made by Belgian aircraft," a communique posted on the Belgian Ministry of Defense website said.

"The numbers of the identification friend-or-foe system, which are marked on the map and which, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, are assigned to the Belgian aircraft, are incorrect and in no way are the numbers of the Belgian Air Force aircraft," the document says.

Brussels is using “worthless excuses” in an attempt to divert public attention from the airstrike on the Syrian village, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Friday.

"Attempts by the Belgian Defense Minister [Steven Vandeput] to divert public attention from the tragedy, using obviously worthless excuses, causes profound confusion. It speaks of either Mr Vandeput’s misunderstanding of the document provided by Russia, or the desire of the US Armed Forces Central Command, responsible for providing targeting data to aircraft of the international coalition in Syria, to evade responsibility for the death of six Syrian civilians, killed in the airstrike,” Konashenkov told journalists.

Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Didier Vanderhasselt told Interfax on Friday the ministry is not yet aware of the content of its ambassador’s conversation with Russia’s deputy foreign minister, and is waiting for the results of the meeting. “We maintain dialogue with the Russian side, we need to know exactly what was said at this meeting,” he added.

"We are also surprised by the fact that we have not been provided with the data before," Vanderhasselt is cited as saying by Interfax. "Our military gave all the explanations to the military attaché of the Russian Embassy in Belgium yesterday [Thursday] morning," he added.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday that Brussels’ obstinate denial of involvement shows that Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput is either “deliberately deceiving people in Belgium and around the world, or his subordinates and the Americans are lying to the leadership of Belgium.”

The airstrike on the village of Hassadjek in Syria’s Aleppo province reportedly killed six civilians on Tuesday.

According to Konashenkov, the two Belgian F-16s were immediately identified by Russian and Syrian air defense radar and all of their movements were tracked.

“Every aircraft type has a unique identifiable signature,” he noted.

The warplanes, which had flown in from the Muwaffaq Salti Airbase in Jordan, delivered their night strike on the village at 00:35 GMT, about two hours after takeoff, leaving six civilians dead and four injured, the general said. Russia tracked the flight of the two planes from Jordan to Iraq and Syria, as well as their meeting with a US KC-135 tanker, which refueled them over the Deir ez-Zor area, Konashenkov said, adding that the US-led coalition hadn’t informed Russia about the Belgian flights.

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ISIS takes 550 families as ‘human shields’ in Mosul – UN

Islamic State militants have taken some 550 families from villages around Mosul, and are thought to be holding them as ‘human shields’ close to jihadists’ locations in the strategic Iraqi city, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office said.

READ MORE: ISIS fighters enter Kirkuk mosques, kindergarten, take civilians hostage – report

Citing “corroborated information,” UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the office is also investigating reports that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants had killed 40 civilians in one village, Reuters reported.

Earlier this week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) sounded the alarm amid the carnage surrounding the recapture of Mosul and concerns that IS militants may unleash chemical attacks and use tens of thousands as human shields.

"Tens of thousands of people may be forcibly expelled, they will be getting trapped between fighting lines under siege, they may even be held as human shields," IOM’s chief of mission for Iraq, Thomas Weiss, told Reuters.

The battle for Mosul, which was held by Islamic State since 2014, began on Sunday, and has since intensified. The Iraqi military and US-led coalition said that the operation to retake Mosul may last weeks or even months.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Thursday that the battle for Mosul is decisive both militarily and ideologically because it’s about “stabbing Islamic State in its very heart.”

 
The UN says Mosul could require the “largest and most complex” humanitarian relief operation in the world, with up to 1 million people forced from their homes as a result of the operation against Islamic State militants.

“There are real fears that the offensive to retake Mosul could produce a humanitarian catastrophe resulting in one of the largest man-made displacement crises in recent years,” William Spindler, the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said earlier this week.
There are already some 3.3 million displaced Iraqis – approximately 10 percent of the population – according to the UN.

“The enormity of the potential displacement raises also considerable concerns about the protection of civilian populations,” Spindler said.

“For example, some could be prevented from fleeing or could face restrictions of movement to safe areas and access to humanitarian assistance,” he added.

Islamic State seized Mosul in June of 2014, when it was Iraq’s second-largest city. The terrorist group’s leader then turned it into a major military stronghold, and it is believed that between 4,000 and 8,000 IS militants are entrenched there, according to Reuters.

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