Moral Low Ground


Syria: US Airfield Strike Killed 9 Civilians, Including 4 Children

US warships launched nearly 60 cruise missiles at a Syrian government airfield on Thursday. (US Navy photo)

Nine civilians, including four children, were killed in Thursday’s US cruise missile attack on a Syrian government airfield in Homs province, Syrian government television reported Friday.

Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) — a propaganda tool of the ruling Bashar al-Assad dictatorship —  first reported the civilian deaths, with the story subsequently being picked up by international media. When mentioned at all, the reported civilian deaths were buried deep in most US reports of the strike, which was ordered by President Donald Trump in retaliation for what the United States said was Assad’s responsibility for a Tuesday chemical attack that killed scores of civilians and injured hundreds more in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province. Around 60 cruise missiles were launched from two US warships against al-Shariat air base in the southeastern countryside of Homs province.

According to SANA, two of the missiles struck a home, killing five civilians, including three children. Another errant missile reportedly fell in al-Hamrat village, killing four civilians, including a child. SANA claims seven more civilians were injured as a missile struck houses in al-Manzoul village, 2.4 miles (4 km) away from the base.

The independent UK-based monitor group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported a general and three soldiers were among the Syrian military personnel killed in the strike, the Times of Israel reports.

Assad’s office released a statement Friday calling the US attack “reckless, irresponsible behavior” and an “unjust and arrogant aggression.”

“Targeting an airport of a sovereign state by the US is an outrageous act that clarifies in conclusive evidence once again what Syria has been saying, that the succession of [US] administrations… does not change the deep policies of its entity which is represented by targeting states, subjugating peoples and the attempt to dominate the world,” the statement read.

Syria’s leading ally, Russia — whose forces were warned ahead of the attack, also condemned the strike, calling it an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law.” Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin believes the US launched the strikes under a “far-fetched pretext.”

“Washington’s move deals a significant blow to the Russia-US relations, which are already in a deplorable shape,” Peskov said.

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 what is the 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.

While the pro-Assad side has killed the most innocent civilians, by far, during Syria’s civil war, the US has come under fire — especially since Donald Trump became president — for killing an increasing number of civilians. Recent mass casualty attacks carried out by US forces include an air strike on a school sheltering refugees in the village of al-Mansoura, near the de facto IS capital of Raqqa, in which some 33 civilians died, and the bombing of a mosque in al-Jinah, Aleppo province, that killed 49 civilians.

More than 15 years of continuous US-led war against Islamist militants in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa have taken a heavy toll on civilians. Estimates of the number of innocent people killed range from the low hundreds of thousands to over 1.3 million. Many observers fear the spike in civilian deaths since President Donald Trump took office will continue, as the president has promised to “bomb the shit out of” IS and kill the innocent families of suspected militants. “You have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump said in December 2015.

Since the end of World War II, US military forces have killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force in the world, by far.

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