Moral Low Ground


Mother and Her 6 Children Among At Least 20 Syrian Civilians Killed In Weekend US-Led Air Strikes

(Photo: Daily Times)

At least 21 Syrian civilians, including a mother and her six children, were killed in two separate US-led air strikes over the weekend, human rights monitor groups said on Saturday.

The Associated Press reports the anti-Islamic State (IS) monitor group Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered said a boat carrying about 40 people attempting to flee fighting between IS fighters and US-backed rebels was bombed as it was crossing the Euphrates River near Shuaib al-Zeker, Raqqa province. The group said the bodies of a woman and her six children were recovered from the river, while others are still missing.

Earlier on Saturday, at least 15 civilians were killed in strikes attributed to US-led coalition warplanes in the village of Hneida, on the outskirts of the de facto IS capital of Raqqa, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reports. The independent UK-based monitor group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said four children were among those killed when an Internet cafe was bombed. The US military publication Stars and Stripes reports Syrian state media said 13 civilians died in the attack. A witness told DPA 17 civilians were killed.

“Seventeen people were killed and 12 injured; the building was completely destroyed,” Mohammed al-Ajeily said. “The number of casualties is expected to rise because some of the injured are in critical condition and due to a shortage of medical centers in the area.”

Leaflets dropped by coalition aircraft in recent weeks have sown widespread confusion, with one suggesting areas near the Euphrates River are safer for civilians, while another warns that boats attempting to cross the river would be bombed. Thousands of civilians in IS-controlled areas are fleeing for their lives as Syrian Kurdish-led forces prepare for an offensive to retake the terrorist group’s capital.

Saturday’s strikes came just over a day after President Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile attack on al-Shairat airfield in Homs province, which the US and others say was used by Syrian government forces to launch a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib province. SOHR said 87 civilians, including 31 children, were killed in Tuesday’s chemical attack, while Syrian state media claimed nine civilians, including four children, died in the retaliatory US strike.

There has been a dramatic increase in civilian casualties caused by US-led bombing in Syria and Iraq since Donald Trump became commander-in-chief. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump accused President Barack Obama — whose drone and other air strikes killed at least hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya — of “fighting a very politically correct war.” Trump promised to “bomb the shit out of” IS militants and kill their families. “I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left,” Trump said in November 2015. “We’ll get Exxon[Mobil] to come in there and in two months… I’ll take the oil.”

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families,” Trump said in December 2015, advocating actions that are war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.

Since taking office, Trump has loosened rules of engagement in the continuing 15-year US-led war against Islamist terrorism, at the expense of innocent civilians. A week after his inauguration, the president ordered a ground raid against al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen in which dozens of civilians, including an 8-year-old American girl, and a US Navy SEAL were killed. In February, at least 18 Afghans, mostly women and children, died in a US strike in Helmand province.

Last month saw the largest number of civilians killed by US bombs perhaps since the Vietnam war, with the independent UK-based monitor group Airwars claiming more Syrians were killed by American forces than by either IS or Russia in March. The group reported 1,472 civilian casualties related to US and coalition strikes in Syria and Iraq in March.

Among the deadliest reported US-led attacks in last month 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; Iraqi government officials have come under fire for instructing Mosul residents to remain in their homes prior to the deadly bombing.

More than 400,000 Syrians have been killed in a six-year civil war between Syrian government forces under the command of longtime dynastic dictator Bashar al-Assad and numerous disparate rebel groups, among them IS and al-Qaeda and Kurdish separatists. Russia, Iran and the Lebanese Islamist militant group Hezbollah are backing the Assad regime, while the United States and some of its NATO and other allies, including Kurdish fighters, Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Jordan and Australia, are battling IS and other Islamists. The fighting has sparked the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, with more than five million Syrians fleeing to neighboring countries, Europe and elsewhere.

More than 15 years of endless US war spanning much of the Earth from South Asia to the Middle East and North Africa have taken an extremely heavy toll on innocent life. Estimates of the number of people killed during the ongoing 15-year US-led war against Islamist terrorism range from the low hundreds of thousands to over 1.3 million. 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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