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Monitor: US-Led Coalition Killed More Syrian Civilians than Islamic State, Russia, In March

Numerous children were reportedly killed by US or US-backed Iraqi forces during a March 4 attack in the Al Mahatta neighborhood of western Mosul. (Photo: Iraqi Spring Media Group)

More innocent Syrian civilians were killed last month by bombs dropped by the US-led coalition then by Russian or Islamic State (IS) forces fighting in the civil war there, figures from a leading human rights monitor reveal.

The Independent reports the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) found US-led coalition forces killed 260 civilians, including 34 women and 70 children, in March. The group said IS fighters killed 119 Syrian civilians last month, including 7 women and 19 children, while Russian forces killed 224 civilians, including 42 women and 51 children. Only Syrian government forces killed more innocents — 417 civilians, including 46 women and 61 children — than the American-led coalition, IS or Russia. SNHR acknowledged it is difficult to ascertain precise civilian casualty figures, especially in the case of the Syrian government and IS, which do not track or publish such data.

Meanwhile, the independent UK-based monitor group Airwars reported 1,472 civilian casualties related to US-led air strikes in Syria and Iraq last month. Among the deadliest reported US-led attacks in March were three mass casualty events. After initially denying responsibility, US officials launched an investigation of a March 16 air strike on the Omar ibn al-Khatab mosque in Al Jinah, in Aleppo province that killed 49 civilians. On March 20, an air strike on a school sheltering dozens of families in the village of al-Mansoura killed 33 civilians. In Iraq, at least 278 bodies, many of them of children, have been recovered from the site of a March 17 air strike in the densely populated al-Jadida neighborhood of western Mosul. IS fighters had taken up positions on a residential building where hundreds of sheltering civilians were used as human shields.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to escalate the US-led war against what he called “radical Islamic terrorism,” vowing to “bomb the shit out of” IS fighters and kill their innocent families. The Trump administration has worked to dismantle Obama-era restrictions on the use of force that were put in place in an effort to protect innocent life.

There has been a dramatic increase in civilian casualties caused by US bombs and bullets since Trump entered office. In the first major ground raid ordered by the new administration, dozens of civilians — including an 8-year-old American girl — and a US Navy SEAL died in a botched January assault on al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. The following month, at least 18 Afghans, mostly women and children, died in a US air strike in Helmand province. In addition to the March mass casualty incidents detailed above, Syrians and Iraqis living under the threat of bombardment say many US-led air strikes resulting in civilian casualties go unreported or are only reported by local media.

Backed by Russian troops and airpower and Iranian forces, Assad loyalists have killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians as the longtime dynastic dictator fights to retain and regain control over a country from which some 5 million people have fled in the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. Regime troops have been battling Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda and other Islamist insurgents, as well as more moderate rebels, over the course of the six-year civil war that has left more than 400,000 people dead. The United States, along with numerous NATO allies including Turkey, Britain and France, and nations including Jordan and Australia, has intervened in the conflict as part of the ongoing 15-year war against terrorism. The US-led war being waged in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa has taken a heavy toll on civilians, with estimates of the number of innocent people killed ranging from the low hundreds of thousands to over 1.3 million.

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