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US-Led Air Strikes Killing Families in Tabaqa, Syria

Aftermath of a suspected US-led air strike on al-Haal market, Tabaqa, April 21, 2017. (Photo: Euphrates Post)

US-led air strikes targeting Islamic State fighters in Tabaqa, Syria are killing groups of civilians fleeing or sheltering from fierce fighting between IS militants and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces rebels, media and monitor groups report.

In the deadliest reported recent incident, 17 civilians, most of them from one family and including nine children, died while trying to flee the besieged city on Monday. The Associated Press reported eight family members, five of them children, were killed in the strike. By Tuesday, independent monitor groups said the death toll from the strike had risen to 17. According to Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered (RBSS), “the family of Ali Abu Aish was killed after they were targeted by a coalition plane with machine gun fire while they were trying to leave Al Tabaqa.” RBSS identified the following victims:

・Fatima Karsouh, woman, age 41
・Khawla Abu al-Aish, woman, age 40
・A’rifa Abu al-Aish, woman, age 23
・Riham Abd al-Aziz, woman, age 23
・Wafaa Abu al-Aish, girl, age 15
・Hiba Abdel Aziz, girl, age 9
・Mounir Ali Abu al-Aish, boy, age 5
・Ali Abd al Salam Abu al-Aish, boy, age 3
・Mo’awiya al-Zalam, boy, age 2
・Mohammad Khaled Abdel Aziz, boy, age 9 months
・Salam Ali Abu al-Aish, boy, age 6 months
・Radwan Haj Hammoud, his unnamed wife and daughter, his unnamed daughter-in-law and her two children, ages not     listed.

Abd al-Salam and Ali Abu Aish died in a suspected US-led coalition air strike on Tabaqa, Syria on April 21, 2017 (Photo: Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered)

On Friday, local media and local and international monitor groups including Airwars and Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reported five civilians — three children and their parents — were killed in a US-led air strike on Tabaqa’s al-Hal market. Journalist Mohab Nasser identified the victims as Khalil Zakariy, his wife and their children Hiba, Safa and Zakariya. Also on Friday, a woman identified as 30-year-old Aisha Al-Ahmad died and an unknown number of other civilians were injured when a suspected US-led air strike hit al-Wasat Street in Tabaqa’s al-Qarya neighborhood, media and monitor groups reported.

The following day, media and monitor groups reported a likely coalition air strike hit an ambulance in the city, killing four or five civilians. Turkey-based Smart News Agency reported the ambulance was rushing a patient to the National Hospital and listed the victims as the patient, two nurses and a driver. Also on April 22, a suspected US-led air strike on al-Bhatari school in Tabaqa killed one civilian and wounded four others, Smart News Agency and Airwars reported.

On April 23, three civilians — a man, his wife and their child — died when a likely coalition air strike hit their home in Tabaqa’s al-Thani neighborhood, Smart News Agency and Airwars reported.

US-led coalition warplanes are believed to be the only aircraft flying missions over Tabaqa, which is under siege as SDF rebels battle IS for control of the city located just 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the de facto IS capital of Raqqa. RBSS reports nearly 30,000 civilians remain trapped in the city out of a prewar population of around 70,000. The situation in Tabaqa is dire — in addition to enduring intense fighting and air strikes, residents have gone without electricity or water for three weeks.

People fleeing for their lives sometimes come under fire from all sides in the conflict. RBSS reports an SDF sniper recently killed 70-year-old Ahmed al-Rawi and some of his relatives, while as many as 40 civilians drowned in the Euphrates River when the boat on which they were attempting to flee was either bombed or sank. In one of the deadliest coalition air strikes to target Tabaqa, BBC reported last month that 27 civilians died and 40 others were wounded when US-led warplanes bombed a bakery in the city’s Second District.

Additionally, an April 11 US “friendly fire” bombing incident killed 18 SDF fighters near Tabaqa.

More than 450,000 Syrians have died in a civil war that started in 2011 after longtime dynastic dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces violently repressed what began as peaceful protests during the Arab Spring uprisings. More than a million people have been injured, and another 12 million Syrians — or about half the country’s prewar population — have been displaced, creating the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, Iran and the Shia militant group Hezbollah, have killed the most civilians by far in the conflict as they battle disparate rebel forces including Kurds, IS, SDF, al-Qaeda and others. US and other air strikes carried out by NATO and other allies including France, Britain, Turkey, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany and Jordan, have killed and wounded hundreds of civilians.

While the US does not record the cumulative civilian casualties from over 15 years of continuous war against Islamist militants in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa, 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. Airwars reports more than 3,000 Syrian and Iraqi civilians have been killed by US-led bombing since former president Barack Obama launched the current war against IS in 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.

US, Allied Bombings Kill Hundreds More Iraqi and Syrian Civilians

Dozens of children and babies are among the hundreds of civilians killed in US-led coalition and Iraqi air strikes and shelling in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks, mostly in and around Mosul and Raqqa. (Photo: Iraqi Spring Media Group)

Hundreds of Iraqi and Syrian civilians have been killed, and hundreds more wounded, by US-led and Iraqi air and artillery strikes this month, human rights monitors and local officials said.

Al Jazeera and other media and independent monitor groups, including the UK-based Airwars and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), report at least 23 civilians, including five women and 13 children, were killed in either a US-led coalition or Iraqi air strike on Abu Kamal, Syria, near the Iraqi border. The Tuesday strike was believed to target a home and warehouse used by Islamic State (IS) fighters. Some reports put the death toll as high as 36. At least a dozen other civilians were wounded.

WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES. 

International and local media reported an April 19 US coalition air strike on a field hospital in Tabaqa, Raqqa province, Syria killed up to four civilians, including a doctor and a woman, and wounded as many five other patients and staff. The coalition said it was targeting IS fighters, buildings and a tunnel used by militants.

Airwars and local media reported a Monday air strike carried out by either US-led coalition or Iraqi warplanes killed and wounded over 100 civilians in various neighborhoods of West Mosul, Iraq. Coalition officials said eight air strikes targeted IS fighters in the area.

CBS News reports an air strike likely carried out by US-led coalition warplanes late Monday in Boukamal, Syria killed at least 10 civilians and wounded dozens more, with SOHR placing the death toll at 13 civilians, including women and children. Earlier that day, a separate US-led strike killed seven civilians, including a child, in the Syrian village of Husseinyeh, SOHR added.

In the town of Tabaqa, in Raqqa province, Syria, international and local media, as well as monitor groups, reported six civilians were killed and 11 others wounded in at least one of the five air strikes the US-led coalition acknowledged conducting there on Monday.

On Sunday, as many as 10 civilians from two families were killed in what is believed to be a coalition air strike on Kabish, in Raqqa province, Airwars, SOHR and other media and monitor groups said. Also on Sunday, the monitor group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) and local media reported two children were killed in an alleged coalition air strike on a school in Hunaida, Raqqa province.

On Saturday, nine civilians were reportedly killed and others injured in a coalition air strike on Rayhana village near Anah, in Anbar province, Iraq, according to local media reports. Also on Saturday, SOHR and numerous media outlets reported as many as 17 civilians were killed and as many as 24 others wounded in a coalition or Iraqi air strike on Sukariya, Deir Ezzor, Syria. Coalition officials said an IS fuel facility was targeted in multiple air strikes. Five civilians from the same family also died and others were injured when a coalition air strike hit homes in the village of Mazra’at Yarub, Raqqa province, Syria. The coalition said it targeted IS fighters and supply routes, including a bridge.

Last Friday, five civilians were killed and eight more injured in what is believed to be a coalition air strike on Musherfa, Raqqa province, international and local media reported, as did Airwars. Earlier last week, Al Jazeera and other media reported US and Iraqi bombing and shelling of the old city of West Mosul killed 73 civilians and injured well over 100 others. Last week the coalition also denied a claim by the Syrian government that the US-led alliance bombed a toxic chemical storehouse used by IS, killing hundreds of civilians. The coalition called the claim “intentional misinformation.”

Other reported mass-casualty events (10 or more deaths) attributed to US-led coalition or Iraqi government forces in April include:

– An April 11 “friendly fire” incident in which coalition warplanes bombed Syrian Democratic Forces fighters, who are allied with the United States in the fight against IS, near Tabaqa, Syria, killing 18.

– An April 11 coalition air strike on homes in the heavily-bombarded Yarmouk neighborhood of West Mosul, Iraq that killed 13 civilians and wounded 17 others, most of them critically.

– On April 10, a US A-10 warplane allegedly bombed the Yarmouk neighborhood of West Mosul, killing 30 civilians.

– Also on April 10, as many as 17 civilians, including a woman and two children, died in what is believed to be a coalition air strike on the villages of Shoeib Al Zakar and Dibsi Faraj, Raqqa province.

– On April 9, SOHR, RBSS and local media reported as many as 10 civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed in a coalition air strike on the Tishreen Farms area of Raqqa.

– On April 8, US-led bombing and Iraqi shelling of several West Mosul neighborhoods killed 13 civilians — mostly women and children — and wounded 91 others, international and local media reported.

– Also on April 8, RBBS reported a mother and her six children died when the boat on which they were crossing the Euphrates River near Sho’aib Al-Zikir in Raqqa province, Syria was bombed by a coalition warplane. Smart News Agency reported 11 bodies were found on the riverbank near the village, while other outlets reported as many as 40 civilians died on the boat.

– On April 7, the Associated Press and other media and monitor groups reported at least 15 civilians, including one or two women and four children, were killed, and as many as 24 others injured, when US-led warplanes bombed an Internet cafe in Huneida, Raqqa province, Syria.

– An April 5 Iraqi or US-led air strike on the al-Shafaa neighborhood of West Mosul killed at least 16 members of one family and wounded up to 25 other civilians, Airwars and local media reported.

– On April 4, 20 civilians, including many children, were reportedly killed, and six others wounded, in an Iraqi or US-led air strike on the Tal Afar neighborhood of West Mosul, Iraq.

These are only the credibly reported mass casualty events attributed to US-led coalition and Iraqi bombing and shelling. There have been many more reported incidents in which smaller numbers of civilians have been killed or injured, as well as many unverified or unattributable attacks. The majority of the more than 400,000 people killed in Syria’s six-year civil war have been killed by the forces of the Bashar al-Assad regime, although the human rights group Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) recently reported US-led bombing killed more Syrian civilians last month than IS or Russia, which is conducting aerial bombardment and other operations in support of Assad.

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 held the residents as human shields.

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.

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.

Hillary Clinton Called For Syria Airfield Strike Hours Before Trump Ordered Attack

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump advocated an escalation of the US war against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq during the 2016 presidential race. (Photo: Moral Low Ground composite from Gage Skidmore/Flickr Creative Commons)

Former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday called for a US military strike against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s air force just hours before President Donald Trump ordered such an attack in response to what the US says was a regime chemical attack against civilians near Idlib.

Speaking at the Women in the World summit in New York City, Clinton — who was criticized during the campaign by voices on the right and on the left for being too pro-war — attributed the bulk of civilian deaths in Syria’s raging six-year civil war to Assad’s air power. “Assad has an air force, and that air force is the cause of most of these civilian deaths as we have seen over the years and as we saw again in the last few days,” said Clinton. “And I really believe that we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.”

Hours later, two US Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea fired around 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at al-Shairat airfield in Homs province after warning Russian officials of the imminent strike. Syrian state media reported 15 people were killed in the bombing, including nine civilians — four of them children. US forces have come under fire for causing a dramatic increase in civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq since Trump became commander-in-chief.

Clinton’s pro-war record and views proved a liability during both the Democratic primary contest against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the 2016 general election. As First Lady, she boasted of her role in convincing President Bill Clinton to wage war on dubious grounds against Yugoslavia in 1999. As a former US senator, she voted to authorize both the US war in Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the invasion and occupation of Iraq beginning in 2003. As secretary of state, Clinton was a leading proponent of regime change in Libya and was instrumental in convincing a reluctant President Barack Obama to wage war there — without congressional authorization as required by law —  in support of the overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi. She also repeatedly threatened to attack Iran, even though US and Israeli intelligence agencies and officials concluded the Islamic Republic did not have and was not trying to develop nuclear weapons.

During the 2016 campaign, both Trump and Clinton called for an escalation of the US-led aerial bombardment of Syria and Iraq in the wake of the June 12, 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida. Clinton also came under fire during the campaign for accepting endorsements of some of the hawkish Republican figures in modern history. She called Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state and national security advisor who helped President Richard Nixon plan and implement the war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in which millions of people were killed, and who green-lighted the dictator Suharto’s genocidal invasion of East Timor during the Ford administration, a “friend.” She also touted the endorsement of John Negroponte, who oversaw the creation of a notorious Honduran death squad and was instrumental in securing and maintaining US support for the Contra terrorist insurgency in Nicaragua during the Reagan administration.

Clinton’s hawkishness has not been diminished in defeat. During Thursday’s speech, she reiterated her support for a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians, a controversial policy she advocated throughout the 2016 campaign. “I still believe we should have done a no-fly zone,” she said. “We should have been more willing to confront Assad.” Clinton also insisted that had she been elected, she would have taken a tougher line with Russia over the ongoing Syrian slaughter. She said she would have told Russian President Vladimir Putin he is “either with us or against us on this no-fly zone.” During the 2016 campaign, many expert observers asserted such a no-fly zone would risk provoking a war with Russia.

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.

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.

US Strikes Assad Airfield In Response to Chemical Attack

The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea launches Tomahawk cruise missile as seen from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in September, 2014. (US Navy photo)

US forces launched dozens of cruise missiles against Syrian military targets on Thursday in response to a deadly chemical attack attributed to embattled dictator Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

In the first deliberate US attack against the Assad regime, two American warships in the Mediterranean Sea fired more than 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the al-Shairat airfield in Homs province, NBC News reports. US officials believe the airfield was used by Syrian troops to launch Tuesday’s attack.

“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” President Donald Trump said at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically,” the president added. “As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”

BBC News reports at least 84 people were killed, and hundreds more injured, after what witnesses said were fixed-wing warplanes belonging to the Syrian air force attacked Khan Sheikhoun, about 50km (30 miles) south of the city of Idlib, while many people were still asleep on Tuesday morning. ABC News reports the attack struck an underground hospital run by the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group formerly known as al-Nusra Front. Witnesses described a yellow mushroom cloud followed by symptoms consistent with exposure to chemical weapons. Doctors from the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS) who were in the area of the attack said victims exhibited “constricted (or ‘pinpoint’) pupils, foaming at the mouth, and the loss of consciousness, slow heart rate, slow breathing, vomiting, muscles spasms and other neurological symptoms consistent with nerve agents.”

“The symptoms described are consistent with exposure to Sarin or some other organophosphorus chemical,” Ralf Trapp, a consultant formerly with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told New Scientist. “As some of the victims have been moved to Turkey, it may be possible to acquire biomedical samples from them to identify telltale chemical compounds formed by sarin reacting with molecules in the blood.”

The Turkish Health Ministry said preliminary tests indicated the nerve agent Sarin was used in the attack, although this has not been independently confirmed.

Thursday’s cruise missile attack — which US officials said targeted aircraft and infrastructure, not people — marks a dramatic reversal from the Trump administration’s earlier position, held until just up to the attack, that it would not target the Assad regime. In Turkey on March 30, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Assad’s fate “will be decided by the Syrian people,” and on the same day United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley stated at UN headquarters in New York that “our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”

Trump’s first response to the horrific chemical attack was to blame his predecessor, Barack Obama. “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said in a statement. “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.” However, Trump also repeatedly urged Obama to not attack Syria, even in the wake of multiple chemical attacks in 2013.

The president’s tone changed by Wednesday, when he said the “attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me” and that his “attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.” Critics wondered what, if any, effect the deaths of hundreds of innocent Syrian, Iraqi, Somali, Yemeni and Afghan civilians — including scores of children — caused by US bombs and bullets since Trump took office have had on the president. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of innocent people killed by US forces in recent months; a reflection, observers say, of Trump’s campaign promise to “bomb the shit out of” Islamic State (IS) fighters and kill their families.

There is no immediate word on Syrian or Russian casualties from Thursday’s US cruise missile attack. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Russia was warned about the strike. “Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line,” Davis said, according to the New York Times. “Military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.”

At the UN, Ambassador Haley partially blamed Moscow for the chemical attack. “Russia cannot escape responsibility for this,” she said. “They chose to close their eyes to the barbarity. They defied the conscience of the world.” Russian President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s staunchest ally, retorted “it was unacceptable to bring accusations against anyone until a thorough and impartial international investigation was conducted,” according to a Kremlin statement. Tillerson, in turn, urged Russia to “consider carefully their continued support of the Assad regime.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem firmly denied his government has ever used chemical weapons during the six-year civil war. “The Syrian Arab Army has never used chemical weapons and will not use chemical weapons against Syrians and even against terrorists,” Moallem asserted at a press conference in the capital Damascus on Thursday. Moallem accused rebels linked to al-Qaeda and IS of smuggling chemical weapons into Syria from Iraq and Turkey and stockpiling them in residential neighborhoods.

UN human rights investigators concluded in early 2014 that chemical weapons from Syrian military stockpiles were used in three separate attacks the previous year: in Khan al-Assal near Aleppo in March, at Saraqeb in April and in the Damascus suburb of al-Ghouta in August, the latter which left more than 1,400 people dead.

Although Thursday’s cruise missile strike was the first time the US deliberately attacked Assad’s forces, Syrian military leaders are still seething over what the Obama administration called an “intelligence failure” in which US warplanes bombed regime troops last September, killing 62. Such incidents underscore the confusion and complexity that characterize the Syrian civil war, with has pitted the Russian- and Iranian-backed Assad regime against disparate rebel groups including Islamists like al-Qaeda and IS and others, some backed by the United States and numerous NATO allies, Australia and Jordan. The raging conflict has left more than 400,000 people dead — most of them at the hands of regime forces — and has displaced more than 5 million people in what has become the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Nearly 300 Bodies Recovered from Site of US Mosul Strike

Relatives mourn over the body of a girl killed in a March 17 U.S.-led air strike targeting Islamic State militants in Jadida, western Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP)

Nearly 300 bodies — including many children — have been recovered from the site of March 17 US-led coalition air strike on a crowded neighborhood in Mosul, Iraq.

Civil Defense Lt. Col. Taha Ali. said Wednesday that 278 bodies have been pulled from the rubble caused by the bombing of residential homes in the al-Jadida neighborhood of what was once Iraq’s second-largest city, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, Sabah Numan, a spokesman for the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, disputed that figure, claiming 61 bodies had been recovered and the total death toll from the bombardment was likely in the 100-130 range.

US military commanders have acknowledged carrying out the deadly air strike, with Iraqi and US officials, as well as survivors of the attack, claiming Islamic State (IS) fighters took up positions on and in adjoining homes where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. According to Numan, IS booby-trapped the building and parked a vehicle full of explosives nearby, which helps explain the unusually high death toll. Col. Ali, meanwhile, said it was unclear how many bodies were still trapped beneath the rubble.

The strike ranks as the deadliest by far committed by the US-led coalition during the war against IS. Based on the figure of 278 killed, it is also the deadliest single air strike of the 15-year American-led war against terrorism and the deadliest since US stealth warplanes bombed a Baghdad air raid shelter during the 1991 Gulf War.

Iraqi forces, backed by US-led coalition air strikes and US Special Forces troops, are continuing to push further into IS-held territory in western Mosul. Agence France-Presse reports as many as 15,000 residents are fleeing the city daily, greatly straining humanitarian resources. The United Nations said it is expanding camps for displaced people around the city as the number of refugees hits 300,000.

The high number of civilian casualties in the battle for Mosul prompted US and Iraqi officials to announce a change in tactics to be employed as the fierce fighting continues. Earlier this week, the Iraqi military said it would slow the offensive into the densely populated old district of the city and reduce the number of coalition air strikes. However, credible but as yet unverified reports claim coalition strikes continue to kill and injure civilians, including an alleged April 4 bombing in the Tal-Afar neighborhood that reportedly killed 20 civilians, including many children.

Many Mosul residents also claim many coalition air strikes are going unreported, and that recently, bombings have become more indiscriminate. “Before, they were extremely accurate,” local resident Nashwan Ahmeel, who is recovering in a hospital from shrapnel wounds suffered during a coalition attack, told USA Today. “When they were trying to take out a sniper, only the sniper was hit. When they attacked a motorcycle weaving between cars, they only hit the motorcycle.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” IS fighters, kill their innocent families and take Iraq’s oil. Over the past month, the Trump administration has worked to dismantle Obama-era constraints on the use of force designed to protect innocent life. Changes include declaring more places “areas of active hostilities” and granting military and CIA forces greater autonomy to launch strikes without presidential approval in countries including Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

There has been an exponential increase in the killing of innocent civilians in nations targeted by America’s war against terrorism since Trump became commander-in-chief. Last month alone, several mass casualty events have been reported, including 49 civilians killed when a US air strike hit a mosque in Aleppo province, Syria and 33 civilians killed in an air strike on a school sheltering families near Raqqa, Syria. In the Trump administration’s first major ground raid, dozens of civilians — including an 8-year-old American girl — and a US Navy SEAL were killed in a botched assault on an al-Qaeda compound in Yemen. In February, at least 18 Afghans, mostly women and children, died in a US strike in Helmand province.

But it is in Mosul where US bombs have killed the most innocent people. Before the Jadida massacre, the independent UK-based monitor group Airwars claimed as many as 370 civilians were killed in nearly a dozen strikes in and around the city. The United Nations reports 548 civilians were killed throughout Iraq in March, with Nineveh governorate — where Mosul is located — suffering 367 civilian deaths, the most of any Iraqi province.

On the ground in Mosul, many victims and survivors of the US-led attacks have lost confidence in the coalition. “People don’t want liberation like that,” resident Zeyad Suleiman told USA Today. “People once trusted them but now they don’t.”

50 Years Later, MLK’s “A Time To Break Silence” Speech Is as Relevant as Ever

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. helps lead the massive March 16, 1967 New York City protest against the Vietnam War. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his most important speech that wasn’t about civil rights, an address that has been all but forgotten today but which rings as true now as it did when he spoke his words half a century ago.

In Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence (audio and text here), King, who was deeply opposed to the US war in Vietnam, opens by asserting that “a time comes when silence is betrayal… that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”

“Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war,” said King. “Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak.” King lamented how the promise of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs, the most serious federal effort against poverty in a generation, was shattered like “some idle political play thing of a society gone mad on war.” He then “knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.”

“So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such,” King continued, with emphasis on the young black men being disproportionately drafted and shipped “8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem.” Recalling how he counseled the “desperate, rejected and angry young men” he met in America’s inner cities, King then spoke some of the most famous — and controversial — words of his address: “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.”

King noted the breathtaking hypocrisy of “the most powerful nation of the world speaking of (Vietnamese) aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than 8,000 miles from its shores,” a hypocrisy that goes all the way back to when the first white invaders “discovering” this continent called the indigenous people who resisted their genocidal usurpation “savage aggressors.” It has continued down through the centuries, right up to the present day as the same hypocritical cognitive dissonance had us calling the brave Iraqis who resisted Bush’s devastatingly murderous invasion of their homeland “terrorists” while ignoring the fact that we were the ones terrorizing them and not the other way around.

“The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism,” King predicted all those years ago. However, he also insisted that “America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in a revolution of values,” optimistically concluding “there is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from re-ordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values,” stressed King. “When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” He leaves us with a warning that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

We have heeded none of warnings in A Time To Break Silence. Quite the contrary; the United States continues to engage in all the destructive — both to others and to self — behavior condemned in King’s speech: the prioritization of militant imperialism over the provision of even the most basic social needs, waging costly and unjust wars of aggression, claiming to champion the cause of freedom while supporting some of the world’s most brutal dictatorships, serving corporate greed over human need. As President Donald Trump follows through on his murderous promise to “bomb the shit out of” Islamist terrorists and “take out their families” by indiscriminately slaughtering innocent men, women and children by the hundreds, and as the death toll from more than 15 years of endless US war in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa continues to climb well past the million mark, it becomes painfully clear that the United States remains today, as it was in King’s time, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

Today, A Time To Break Silence isn’t anywhere near as well-known as King’s earlier civil rights speeches. Today, King is revered by a nation whose more regressive agents once tried to discredit and destroy him, for what conservatism is, at its core, is an unending effort to preserve the aggregate barbarism of the ages. Today, school children across American can cite lines from I Have A Dream, the most famous of King’s civil rights addresses. But almost no one but historians and a handful of activists knows a single line of A Time To Break Silence. This is not an accident. King’s message has been whitewashed to conform to the official narrative; that is, America is an imperfect nation but one in which justice eventually prevails given a long enough timeline. His pacifism is remembered only in the context of the fight for racial justice. His anti-war, anti-imperialism and pro-socialist writings and speeches have been largely forgotten, even if his life was increasingly dedicated to these causes as it neared its tragically premature end.

This in itself is a great injustice, a perversion of history and an implicit rebuke of the wisdom of a man who was arguably the greatest American who ever lived. King implored us to resist — “every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest” — for in the end, We the People “bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict,” whether it be in the jungles and hamlets of Vietnam or the deserts and cities of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan or any of the half dozen or so nations whose innocent civilians are being killed, maimed, displaced or terrorized by American bombs and bullets dropped and fired in the name of a “freedom” few will ever know.

“The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve,” King said 50 years ago today. “It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning” and “take the initiative in bringing the war to a halt.” America has yet to reach that maturity, as it is waging war in far more countries today than in 1967. The cautionary words of A Time To Break Silence are as urgent today as they were then; our indifference to them is more dangerous than ever.

House Passes, Trump to Sign, Bill Rolling Back Obama-Era Internet Privacy Protection

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (FCC photo)

The House of Representatives approved — and President Donald Trump signaled he will sign — a bill repealing Obama-era Internet privacy rules restricting Internet service providers’ ability to track and sell users’ online browsing data.

The Washington Post reports the Republican-controlled House voted 215-205 along party lines on Tuesday to repeal landmark online privacy protections, opening the door for Internet service providers (ISPs) including Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to enter the $83 billion online advertising market. The legislation, which was narrowly approved by the Senate last week, will stop the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from enforcing rules blocking ISPs from tracking Internet users’ browsing history and selling the data to advertisers.

The FCC approved the repealed rules during the final weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency. They would have required ISPs to obtain customers’ permission before selling or sharing their web browsing data, as well as making the corporations more accountable for preventing data breaches. The repeal bill frees ISPs from having to protect customers’ data from hackers and thieves.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who introduced the repeal bill in the Senate, argued the overturned FCC rules could “limit consumer choice, stifle innovation, and jeopardize data security by destabilizing the Internet ecosystem.” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asserted the old rules disadvantaged ISPs in favor of Internet companies like Google and Facebook, which enjoy greater freedom to collect and monetize user data. “All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, enforced by the same agency,” Pai and acting Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairwoman Maureen Olhausen said in a joint statement earlier this month.

“Moving forward, I want the American people to know that the FCC will work with the FTC to ensure that consumers’ online privacy is protected though a consistent and comprehensive framework,” Pai said in defense of the new law. “The best way to achieve that result would be to return jurisdiction over broadband providers’ privacy practices to the FTC, with its decades of experience and expertise in this area.”

Internet privacy advocates had supported the Obama-era rule change, with many refuting the notion that ISPs should be held to the same standards as Internet companies. “Google doesn’t see everything you do on the Internet (neither does Facebook, for that matter, or any other online platform) — they only see the traffic you send to them,” the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation explained. “And you can always choose to use a different website if you want to avoid Google’s tracking. None of that is true about your ISP… That’s why we need the FCC’s privacy rules: ISPs are in a position of power, and they’ve shown they’re willing to abuse that power.”

Democratic lawmakers slammed the repeal measure. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) said ISP should now stand for “Information Sold For Profit” and “Invading Subscriber Privacy” during last week’s Senate debate of the bill. “President Trump may be outraged by fake violations of his own privacy, but every American should be alarmed by the very real violation of privacy that will result [from] the Republican roll-back of broadband privacy protections,” Markey said.

However, Republican House members — all but 15 of whom voted for the repeal (all Democrats voted against the bill) — defended the legislation as a rollback of government overreach. “The Internet was not broken and did not need the federal government to come in and try to protect it,” stressed Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). Some Republicans even claimed the new law will boost privacy. “[Consumer privacy] will be enhanced by removing the uncertainty and confusion these [Obama-era] rules will create,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who heads the House subcommittee supervising the FCC, said.

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