Moral Low Ground


US-Led Syria Air Strikes Kill Civilians, Including Children

US-led air strikes targeting Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria have killed as many as two dozen innocent civilians, including numerous children, say activists on the ground in the war-ravaged nation.

BBC reports the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based group opposed to the ruling Assad regime with hundreds of observers on the ground in Syria, said 50 al-Qaeda-linked fighters were killed in coalition air strikes west of Aleppo on Tuesday, but that eight civilians — including three children — were also killed.

Other anti-regime activists reported a dozen civilian deaths resulting from the coalition missile strike on a residential neighborhood in the village of Kafar Daryan, Idlib province. The missile struck near the headquarters of al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.

The Los Angeles Times reports activists from the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said the 12 dead innocents included four children from one family.

SNHR claims “coalition forces killed no less than 24 civilians, including five children and five women.”

The group also says Syrian regime forces and allied militias “killed no less than 28 civilians, including four women, two children and eight under torture.”

In Raqqa, where the first coalition air strikes began pounding the city at around 2:00 am, many residents first believed they were being bombed by government forces. But it was soon evident that this was something different.

“It lasted for 30 minutes and the sound of bombing was louder than usual. I saw smoke coming out of the [government] building,” local resident Mohammed Sheiko told the Guardian.

“I called a couple of my friends and they didn’t know about any civilians killed, but they heard some Isis fighters were killed, around 30 to 35 fighters,” added Sheiko.

Sheiko, and many other Raqqa residents fed up with the horrific atrocities committed by Islamic State since it seized control of the city of 220,000 residents from Assad’s forces last year, welcomed the US-led campaign.

“I don’t fear the air strikes. I hope they will bring us some good and not attack civilians.”

“I can already see the success of these strikes,” a 20-year-old student named Hiba told the Guardian. “ISIS fighters have already started leaving the city, following their families, who they evacuated a while ago.

Other residents opposed the strikes.

“We in Raqqa are split in our opinions about the air strikes. Many of us were upset as we heard today that Idlib was attacked and some headquarters of Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were hit,” Yasir, 25, told the Guardian. “We feel that the air strikes aren’t against ISIS, but against other groups. In the beginning, I was excited. But now I fear these attacks and the motivations behind them.”

Four of the five Arab monarchies in the US-led anti-IS coalition — Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan and Bahrain — took part in Tuesday’s air strikes, BBC reports. Jordan said its “air force jets destroyed a number of targets that belong to some terrorist groups that sought to commit terror acts inside Jordan.”

Coalition forces launched more than 200 air strikes against IS, as well as against other militant groups including the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda splinter cell believed to have been planning attacks against US or European targets. Pentagon officials said the group’s plans were “nearing the execution phase” and that its leader, former Osama bin Laden associate Mohsin al-Fadhli, 33, may have been killed in Tuesday’s air strikes.

CNN reports the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front announced that its leader, Abu Yousef al-Turki, was killed in a coalition strike.

US President Barack Obama vowed to continue to “take the fight” to IS.

“Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people,” Obama said at the White House. “The overall effort will take time. There will be challenges ahead. But we’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.”

Obama also met with, and thanked, the other Arab members of the coalition. Numerous observers have noted the significance of numerous Sunni Muslim-majority nations uniting with the United States against a common Sunni enemy.

US and Syrian government officials confirmed that the Assad regime had been notified in a letter from Secretary of State John Kerry, delivered via the Iraqi foreign minister, of the impending coalition strikes on its territory.

The Assad regime, which has committed appalling crimes against humanity as it fights to retain power in the face of multiple revolts, responded by vowing to fight extremists and cooperate “with countries that were harmed by [extremists], first and foremost Iraq.”

Syria “stands with any international effort to fight terrorism, no matter what a group is called,” the regime said in a statement.

Syria’s two key allies, Iran and Russia, condemned the coalition strikes, with Moscow calling them “unilateral” and Iran, while condemning IS brutality, calling them “illegal.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is weathering widespread worldwide condemnation over his country’s recent unilateral invasion of Ukraine.

IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani urged members and supporters of the group to attack foreigners wherever they are found.

“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that joined a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon God, and kill him in any manner,” al-Adnani said in a 43-minute video reported by Al Jazeera.

IS members or sympathizers may have heeded that call, as video of what appears to be kidnapped French mountain climber Herve Gourdel being beheaded by Islamist militants was released on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the IS advance in northern Syria has accelerated a refugee crisis, with at least 130,000 Kurds fleeing north across the border into Turkey since the weekend. The majority of the refugees are from the IS-besieged border town of Kobane. There are already more than a million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

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