Massive aerial bombardment carried out by U.S.-led coalition or Iraqi warplanes killed “at least 200” civilians in besieged West Mosul on Tuesday, according to an Iraqi army officer and elected official cited by local and international media outlets.
Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reports dozens of homes in the Zanjili neighborhood of West Mosul were completely destroyed by the bombing, which lasted for several hours. Mosul City Councilman Mohammed Hassan said warplanes “carpet-bombed” the densely-populated urban neighborhood after Iraqi government troops failed to dislodge Islamic State (IS) militants from the area. Hassan lamented “the hysterical bombing of an entire neighborhood.”
An Iraqi army officer speaking on condition of anonymity told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that more than 200 civilians died in the attacks. “It was not clear whether the aircrafts that carried out the airstrikes belonged to the Iraqi forces or the U.S.,” the officer said. Most of the victims were reportedly women and children, many of whose bodies are still buried under the rubble. “The streets of Al-Jadeed, Al-Naseem and the old school are filled with smoke, and a number of houses have been leveled,” the army officer said. Journalist Othman Mukhtar tweeted of a “large massacre” with “bodies… everywhere.”
Hundreds of Zanjili residents, including many wounded people, streamed out of the neighborhood in the wake of the attacks. Many appeared to be severely malnourished; starvation has affected many Mosul residents, especially children and babies, as at least 250,000 civilians remained trapped inside the embattled city under the most dire conditions. While nearly 90 percent of Mosul has been captured from IS forces, the remaining Islamist militants are fiercely fighting against the U.S.-backed Iraqi advance.
The situation could deteriorate further as the final push to retake Mosul accelerates. On Sunday, Defense Secretary James Mattis acknowledged that U.S. forces are “accelerating the tempo” of the war against IS, in which the U.S. is shifting from a policy of “attrition” to one of “annihilation.” He said further civilian casualties are inevitable. “Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” Mattis — a retired Marine Corps general who earned the nickname “Mad Dog” while commanding the atrocity-laden battle for Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 — insisted, blaming militants’ use of human shields for many innocent deaths.
In the deadliest single U.S. bombing incident perhaps since the Vietnam War, nearly 300 people died in a March 17 strike on a home in the Jadida neighborhood of West Mosul. U.S. officials claim IS fighters used the hundreds of people sheltering in the building as human shields and booby-trapped the home to maximize death and destruction, however survivors vehemently deny the human shield claim. Many people blame the Iraqi government for instructing them to shelter in place during the fierce battle, others note that IS fighters are executing civilians who attempt to flee their areas of control.
While it is unclear exactly how many civilians have died during the battle for Mosul, the independent monitor group Airwars compiled casualty figures from media and monitors and says between 10,006 and 14,794 Iraqi and Syrian civilians have died in 1,415 separate reported incidents since the U.S.-led coalition air campaign against IS began in August 2014. Of these, Airwars presently concludes that a minimum of 3,681 to 5,849 civilians are likely to have died in coalition attacks. There has been a sharp increase in the number of civilians killed and injured in both Iraq and Syria since Donald Trump entered office. During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” IS fighters and kill their innocent families — a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.
Since entering office, Trump has loosened rules of military engagement designed to protect civilian lives, with disastrous results. He has also kept his promise to kill terrorists’ families — in one of the most recent, and deadly, U.S.-led coalition strikes on Syria, at least 106 Syrian civilians, many of them relatives of IS militants, reportedly died in multiple attacks on Mayadeen. At least 47 children were among the dead. According to Airwars, U.S.-led coalition bombing killed more Syrian civilians in the period April 23 to May 23 than air strikes carried out by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces. The previous month, U.S. air strikes reportedly killed more Syrians than either IS or Russian forces, which have been fiercely bombing Islamist insurgents and innocent civilians alike in support of Assad.
The U.S. has come under increasing criticism not only for the alarming number of civilians being killed but also for undercounting innocent deaths or denying responsibility for them. The Pentagon does not investigate most reported civilian casualties attributed to the coalition.
The vast majority of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed during the country’s six-year civil war have died at the hands of Assad’s forces. However, in the wider war against terrorism waged incessantly by the U.S. since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, at least hundreds of thousands and perhaps more than 1.3 million people — the bulk of them Iraqis — have been killed in more than half a dozen predominantly Muslim nations.
Since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan to end World War II, the U.S. military has killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force in the world, by far.