US-led coalition air strikes on Wednesday killed 23 Syrian civilians from an extended family in a village held by Islamic State (IS) militants in eastern Deir Ezzor province, a leading human rights monitor reports.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reports the attack struck the village of al-Jerthi at dawn. Euphrates Post and the journalistic monitor group Airwars identified the victims as members of the extended al-Aboud and al-Hamsah family. Six women and eight children were among the dead. Airwars reports the death toll is expected to rise, as some of the 10 injured victims are in critical condition. The US-led coalition, which is providing aerial and other support for Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other anti-IS forces fighting to drive the Islamist militants from their last remaining strongholds, admitted to carrying out 16 air strikes on the day of the massacre.
The US military claims it takes great care to avoid harming civilians and says it is waging “the most precise air campaign in the history of warfare.” However, in June United Nations war crimes investigators condemned the “staggering loss of civilian life” caused by US-led bombing in and around Raqqa, then IS’ de facto capital. At that time, American bombs were killing more Syrian civilians than President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, IS fighters or Russian air strikes. Although the frequency and intensity of air strikes have decreased as IS is defeated, coalition bombs continue to kill and injure innocent people with regularity.
Airwars estimates at least 5,975 Iraqi and Syrian civilians have been killed in over 28,000 coalition air strikes since August 2014. US military officials last month admitted to killing over 800 civilians and have been widely criticized for dramatically undercounting or failing to investigate many incidents of civilian casualties. There is no doubt that civilian deaths have soared during the Donald Trump administration. While campaigning last year, Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” IS fighters and “take out their families” and since taking office has loosened rules of engagement meant to protect civilians. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis touted a US policy of “annihilation,” dismissing civilian casualties as “a fact of life” in the war against terrorism.
The vast majority of the more than 400,000 Syrians who have died during the country’s six-year civil were killed by Assad’s forces. However, in the wider war against terrorism waged incessantly by the US since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, at least hundreds of thousands, and perhaps more than 1.3 million people, 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 US has killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force on the planet, by far.