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U.S.-Led Airstrikes in Syria Killed Hundreds of Civilians, U.N. Panel Says June 16, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Chemical Biological Weapons, Imperialism, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Syria, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It was Flag Day yesterday, and the entire patriotic nation was paralyzed with shock over the non-lethal shooting of a handful of Republican wannabe baseball stars.  In other news, buried in the back pages if noted at all, a report suggests that the U.S. led coalition ion in Syria may have killed up to 3,100 civilians and created 160,000 refugees with its airstrikes.  Of course, it is logical to expect a certain priority for local news.  But wait.  Is the latter not local?  Are the warplanes and bombs not Made in the USA?  Are the pilots not American?  Are they not financed with American taxes?

All lives matter.  That’s what the fake Christian bigots were saying in response to Black Lives Matter?  But of course they don’t really mean it.  When I was a Christian I believed that all lives matter (equally).  I am no longer a Christian.  Yet I still believe it.  Go figure.

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GENEVA — Airstrikes by the American-led coalition against Islamic State targets have killed hundreds of civilians around Raqqa, the militant group’s last Syrian stronghold, and left 160,000 people displaced, a United Nations panel said on Wednesday.

The findings of the panel, which has been documenting the war in Syria with periodic reports almost since the conflict began more than six years ago, reinforced fears by humanitarian groups over the heavy loss of civilian life that would result from the American-led coalition’s airstrikes.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Brazilian diplomat who leads the panel, said the airstrikes had escalated as an American-backed militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces moved recently to retake Raqqa, which Islamic State fighters seized in 2014 and made their de facto capital.

“We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an S.D.F. advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes,” Mr. Pinheiro said in a report, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

It was the first time Mr. Pinheiro’s panel had focused on American military conduct that has led to heavy civilian casualties and other suffering.

The panel’s investigators found that 300 civilians had been killed in the airstrikes since March 21, panel member Karen Abuzayd told reporters in Geneva later. They included 200 civilians killed in a single incident in March when an airstrike hit a school in the town of Mansoura, she said.

The attack on Mansoura, shortly after midnight on March 21, hit a school building housing families that had fled the fighting around Palmyra and other towns, investigators said. Initial reports said up to 40 people had died in the bombing, but rescue workers and other witnesses interviewed by the panel said that as operations to clear the rubble progressed the death toll had climbed to around 200. The United States military has said it is aware of the reports of higher casualty figures in Mansoura and is investigating.

The Mansoura attack came on a day that the American-led coalition conducted 19 airstrikes on targets in the vicinity of Raqqa and a week after 49 people reportedly died when coalition aircraft struck the village of Al Jinah in western Aleppo Province. In that strike, residents said coalition aircraft had hit a mosque but American officials said they had hit a meeting of Al Qaeda operatives, producing satellite images which showed the mosque was still standing.

The recapture of Raqqa would be a significant step in the drive to eliminate the Islamic State’s hold on Syrian territory, and in the wider battle between President Bashar al-Assad’s government, backed by Russia and Iran, and rebel forces supported by the United States and Arab regional powers to decide the future of Syria.

Mr. Pinheiro’s panel, officially known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, has been chronicling evidence of war crimes and other atrocities in exhaustive detail.

Success in purging Raqqa of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, would free thousands of civilians from the group’s rule, Mr. Pinheiro said, including women from Iraq’s Yazidi minority who have been held as sex slaves for almost three years. But “the imperative to fight terrorism must not, however, be undertaken at the expense of civilians who unwillingly find themselves living in areas where ISIL is present,” Mr. Pinheiro said.

Its report echoed deepening fears among humanitarian agencies over the toll in civilian lives exacted by American and coalition forces in the campaign to eliminate the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.

Airwars, a nonprofit group monitoring reports of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, has estimated that at least 3,100 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes since the onset of the war against Islamic State in August 2014 up to March 2017, more than eight times the 352 civilian casualties acknowledged by the United States military.

The number of civilians killed in coalition attacks has raised questions among human rights organizations over whether the greater autonomy the Trump administration has allowed military commanders on the battlefield has diverted attention from protection of civilians. Those concerns were further underscored by reports last week that coalition forces attacking Islamic State positions around Raqqa had used munitions containing white phosphorus, a weapon banned in populated areas under international law. United States officials said last week that the weapons were not being used against people.

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