Amnesty International concludes that US-led coalition forces killed hundreds of civilians in last year’s campaign to take the city of Raqqa in northern Syria from the Islamic State.
The organization issued a report on Monday based on visits to 42 sites of airstrikes and interviews with 112 civilian residents whose relatives were killed as the US-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces captured the devastated city last October after a four-month offensive.
Four representative cases are detailed in which 90 civilians — 39 from a single family — were slain. Amnesty concludes, They are part of a wider pattern and provide a strong prima facie case that many Coalition attacks that killed and injured civilians and destroyed homes and infrastructure violated international humanitarian law.”
During the campaign, coalition forces carried out tens of thousands of airstrikes, more than 90% by American warplanes. The US also fired 30,000 artillery rounds on the city and surrounding arreas.
This is is the Badran family in Raqqa, they moved house 4 times to escape the fighting. Everyone in this video is dead, killed by a coalition airstrike. Unable to escape from IS, 100s of civilians were killed by @CJTFOIR airstrikes in Raqqa. Time for accountablity says @amnesty pic.twitter.com/2miz93NrF1
— Quentin Sommerville (@sommervilletv) June 5, 2018
Donatella Rivera, a senior advisor at Amnesty, summarizes:
The Coalition’s claims that its precision air campaign allowed it to bomb IS out of Raqqa while causing very few civilian casualties do not stand up to scrutiny. On the ground in Raqqa we witnessed a level of destruction comparable to anything we’ve seen in decades of covering the impact of wars.
[The Islamic State’s] brutal four-year rule in Raqqa was rife with war crimes. But the violations of IS, including the use of civilians as human shields, do not relieve the Coalition of their obligations to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians. What levelled the city and killed and injured so many civilians was the US-led Coalition’s repeated use of explosive weapons in populated areas where they knew civilians were trapped.
One resident, Munira Hashish, explains, “Those who stayed died and those who tried to run away died. We couldn’t afford to pay the smugglers; we were trapped.” She and her children finally escaped through a minefield “by walking over the blood of those who were blown up as they tried to flee ahead of us”.
Rasha Badran and her husband lost their entire family, including their 1-year-old daughter. She recounts:
We thought the forces who came to evict Daesh [the Islamic State] would know their business and would target Daesh and leave the civilians alone. We were naïve. By the time we had realised how dangerous it had become everywhere, it was too late; we were trapped.