Despite eyewitness and social media accounts, the United States continues to deny that there has been “collateral damage” during its seven-week old bombing campaign against militants in Syria and Iraq. Addressing a September 23rd attack in the Syrian province of Idlib, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby commented, “We don’t believe that there’s much reason to be too concerned about any collateral damage, you know, to civilian property, that kind of thing.”
Watch groups monitoring the conflict beg to differ.
Human Rights Watch reported that the strikes on Idlib killed at least seven civilians, five of which were children, and injured fifteen other non-combatants (some Syrian activist groups pegged the death toll at twenty-four). According to reports, a series of Tomahawk missiles struck a compound of the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra at around 3:30 in the morning. A second bombardment struck two homes in the village of Kafr Deryan, a kilometer away. Three local residents told HRW that, “there were no Jabhat al-Nusra buildings, checkpoints, or vehicles in the vicinity of the strike.”
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that a recent airstrike on a grain silo in Manbij, in Aleppo province, killed an unspecified number of workers. Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman told the Associated Press that the attack “killed only civilians there, workers at the site. There was no ISIS inside,” while adding that all of the food stored in the silo was destroyed.
Shortly after, the US military denied civilian casualties without providing evidence to back its’ claim.
In response to the Pentagon’s denial, Fadel Abdul Ghany, head of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, said, “It’s in the American’s interest to hide it. The reality is there are civilians” among the dead.
In Iraq, there have been over 240 bombings since early August, undoubtedly adding to the appalling civilian death toll since the 2003 American-led invasion. Raed Jarrar, Policy Impact Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, told Common Dreams, “I’m concerned that the U.S. is not held to the same standard as other countries when it comes to violating international law. There is strong evidence that the US-led attacks have killed dozens of civilians in Syria in the last few weeks and killed tens and thousands of civilians in Iraq over the last decade, and we haven’t seen any investigations into these crimes.”
But the bombings themselves may not be the worst consequence when it comes to human rights. According to Jarrar, “The indirect US intervention is left unchecked as well: US training, funding and equipping proxy groups in Iraq and Syria. There is very strong evidence that many of the allies that have been receiving US military assistance have been committing gross human rights violations and the US has not been held accountable.” He added, “There is no reason to believe the US will investigate itself.”
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