U.S.-led air strikes targeting Islamic State fighters in Tabaqa, Syria are killing groups of civilians fleeing or sheltering from fierce fighting between IS militants and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces rebels, media and monitor groups report.
In the deadliest reported recent incident, 17 civilians, most of them from one family and including nine children, died while trying to flee the besieged city on Monday. The Associated Press reported eight family members, five of them children, were killed in the strike. By Tuesday, independent monitor groups said the death toll from the strike had risen to 17. According to Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered (RBSS), “the family of Ali Abu Aish was killed after they were targeted by a coalition plane with machine gun fire while they were trying to leave Al Tabaqa.” RBSS identified the following victims:
Fatima Karsouh, woman, age 41
Khawla Abu al-Aish, woman, age 40
A’rifa Abu al-Aish, woman, age 23
Riham Abd al-Aziz, woman, age 23
Wafaa Abu al-Aish, girl, age 15
Hiba Abdel Aziz, girl, age 9
Mounir Ali Abu al-Aish, boy, age 5
Ali Abd al Salam Abu al-Aish, boy, age 3
Mo’awiya al-Zalam, boy, age 2
Mohammad Khaled Abdel Aziz, boy, age 9 months
Salam Ali Abu al-Aish, boy, age 6 months
Radwan Haj Hammoud, his unnamed wife and daughter, his unnamed daughter-in-law and her two children, ages not listed.
On Friday, local media and local and international monitor groups including Airwars and Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reported five civilians — three children and their parents — were killed in a U.S.-led air strike on Tabaqa’s al-Hal market. Journalist Mohab Nasser identified the victims as Khalil Zakariy, his wife and their children Hiba, Safa and Zakariya. Also on Friday, a woman identified as 30-year-old Aisha Al-Ahmad died and an unknown number of other civilians were injured when a suspected U.S.-led air strike hit al-Wasat Street in Tabaqa’s al-Qarya neighborhood, media and monitor groups reported.
The following day, media and monitor groups reported a likely coalition air strike hit an ambulance in the city, killing four or five civilians. Turkey-based Smart News Agency reported the ambulance was rushing a patient to the National Hospital and listed the victims as the patient, two nurses and a driver. Also on April 22, a suspected U.S.-led air strike on al-Bhatari school in Tabaqa killed one civilian and wounded four others, Smart News Agency and Airwars reported.
On April 23, three civilians — a man, his wife and their child — died when a likely coalition air strike hit their home in Tabaqa’s al-Thani neighborhood, Smart News Agency and Airwars reported.
U.S.-led coalition warplanes are believed to be the only aircraft flying missions over Tabaqa, which is under siege as SDF rebels battle IS for control of the city located just 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the de facto IS capital of Raqqa. RBSS reports nearly 30,000 civilians remain trapped in the city out of a prewar population of around 70,000. The situation in Tabaqa is dire — in addition to enduring intense fighting and air strikes, residents have gone without electricity or water for three weeks.
People fleeing for their lives sometimes come under fire from all sides in the conflict. RBSS reports an SDF sniper recently killed 70-year-old Ahmed al-Rawi and some of his relatives, while as many as 40 civilians drowned in the Euphrates River when the boat on which they were attempting to flee was either bombed or sank. In one of the deadliest coalition air strikes to target Tabaqa, BBC reported last month that 27 civilians died and 40 others were wounded when U.S.-led warplanes bombed a bakery in the city’s Second District.
Additionally, an April 11 U.S. “friendly fire” bombing incident killed 18 SDF fighters near Tabaqa.
More than 450,000 Syrians have died in a civil war that started in 2011 after longtime dynastic dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces violently repressed what began as peaceful protests during the Arab Spring uprisings. More than a million people have been injured, and another 12 million Syrians — or about half the country’s prewar population — have been displaced, creating the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, Iran and the Shia militant group Hezbollah, have killed the most civilians by far in the conflict as they battle disparate rebel forces including Kurds, IS, SDF, al-Qaeda and others. U.S. and other air strikes carried out by NATO and other allies including France, Britain, Turkey, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany and Jordan, have killed and wounded hundreds of civilians.
While the U.S. does not record the cumulative civilian casualties from over 15 years of continuous war against Islamist militants in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa, estimates of the number of innocent people killed range from the low hundreds of thousands to over 1.3 million. There has been a dramatic increase in civilian deaths since President Donald Trump — who promised to “bomb the shit out of” IS and kill militants’ innocent families — took office. Airwars reports more than 3,000 Syrian and Iraqi civilians have been killed by U.S.-led bombing since former president Barack Obama launched the current war against IS in 2014.
Since the 1945 nuclear bombings of Japan that ended World War II, U.S. military forces have killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force in the world, by far.