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US, Iraqi Strikes Kill, Injure Hundreds of Civilians in Iraq and Syria During First Week of May

Children badly injured in the May 4 attack on the al Walaa school in West Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: I Am Mosul/Facebook)

Hundreds more Iraqi and Syrian civilians have been killed and injured during the first week of May in US-led coalition and Iraqi air strikes, as well as Iraqi army shelling, targeting Islamic State (IS) militants.

The UK-based journalistic monitor group Airwars reports civilian casualties are most concentrated in West Mosul in Iraq and in and around Raqqa, the de facto IS capital, and Tabaqa in Syria. According to local and international media reports and human rights monitors, between 194 and 224 civilians were killed and between 299 and 325 others injured in Iraqi bombing and shelling and US-led coalition air strikes between May 1-7. In Syria, 53-76 civilians were reported killed, with another 60-95 wounded, during the same period. Additionally, it is not clear whether Syrian government, Russian or US-led coalition forces were responsible for an “unexplained” May 1 explosion that killed between 13 and 16 civilians in a village in Aleppo province.

In the deadliest single incident of the week, monitor groups and media outlets reported as many as 81 civilians, including 18 children, were killed and up to 86 others injured in May 4 air strikes and shelling that hit the al-Walaa school in the July 17th neighborhood of West Mosul. The school was reportedly being used as a shelter for residents displaced by fighting in nearby Old Mosul. Ahrar News said around 20 families were sheltering in the school when they suffered heavy shelling and rockets from Iraqi and coalition forces. The outlet posted graphic photos of dead and injured children and babies on its Facebook page, along with the caption “the stony rubble was mixed with the children’s flesh.” Al Jazeera reported the Iraqi military admitted to bombing the school, which it claimed was abandoned, and denied targeting civilians.

Also on May 4, Yaqein reported 240 people were killed or wounded in air strikes and shelling throughout West Mosul, including in the the neighborhoods of Rifai, Zanjili and July 17, over the first four days of the month. Additionally, dozens of homes were destroyed by these attacks. That same day, Al Jazeera reported 11 civilians from the same family died when US-led coalition warplanes bombed their house in North West Mosul.

On May 7, Yaqein reported at least 34 civilians were killed and another 77 injured by US-led coalition air strikes and Iraqi army shelling hit several West Mosul neighborhoods.

In Syria, dozens of men, women and children were killed in US-led coalition air strikes targeting Raqqa, Tabaqa, Hunaida, Al Mansoura and elsewhere. Among the deadliest attacks were the May 3 bombing of a fruit market in Tabaqa (6-12 killed, 9-15 others injured), a series of May 4 air strikes in central Raqqa (6-12 killed, 10-15 wounded) and another series of strikes targeting the al-Awwal and al-Thaleth neighborhoods of Tabaqa that killed seven people and injured as many as 24 others on May 4-5.

Another 18 civilians, including 11 children, died in a US-led coalition air strike targeting Palestine Street in Tabaqa, although there is uncertainty about the date of the attack. Various human rights monitor groups and media outlets reported the strike occurred on April 28, May 3 and May 5.

While longtime dynastic dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces are responsible for the majority of the more than 400,000 Syrians killed during that country’s six-year civil war, 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. There has been a dramatic increase in civilian deaths since President Donald Trump — who promised to “bomb the shit out of” IS and kill militants’ innocent families — took office. In what could be the deadliest US bombing in decades, nearly 300 bodies were recovered from the site of a March 17 US strike on a residential building in Mosul’s Jadida neighborhood where IS fighters had taken up positions and allegedly held the residents as human shields, although many witnesses vehemently refute this.

Survivors, human rights monitors and others also strongly reject the US military’s claim that only 45 Iraqi and Syrian civilians were killed by coalition strikes in March, and that 352 civilians have died in coalition attacks since the anti-IS campaign was launched in 2014. Airwars reported hundreds of civilian casualties in March alone, and claims between 3,294 and 5,281 civilian deaths in nearly 1,300 separate incidents since 2014.

Since the 1945 nuclear bombings of Japan that ended 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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