The US-led coalition is in denial of the extent of civilian casualties caused by its bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Raqqa, Amnesty International said in a statement today.
Warning of “huge human and material losses”, the statement comes after the findings of a report by Amnesty released last month entitled “’War of annihilation’: Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa – Syria”, was dismissed by senior figures in the coalition and its member governments.
“The Coalition’s knee-jerk reactions are long on rhetoric and short on detail. They lay bare how deeply in denial the Coalition leadership is about its failure to protect civilians caught in conflict,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty International.
The coalition has acknowledged only 23 civilian deaths resulting from the more than 30,000 artillery rounds and several thousand air strikes it launched into Raqqa city during its four-month military campaign from June to October 2017 against Daesh fighters; Amnesty puts the death toll in the hundreds. Some eight months later the city remains in ruins and tens of thousands displaced.
“The blustery denials we’ve repeatedly seen and heard from senior Coalition officials are contradicted by the lived reality of the hundreds of civilians we’ve interviewed for our investigations in Raqqa and Mosul. They’re even contradicted by their own partners on the ground,” Rovera said, adding that it was clear coalition authorities had not made any real attempt at conducting research.
According to Amnesty, under the command of a US General, US forces fired 100 per cent of the artillery into Raqqa and carried out over 90 per cent of the air strikes. British and French forces were the only other Coalition members to strike Raqqa from the air whilst US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) aided the ground invasion.
The report further quotes Army Sergeant Major John Wayne Troxell, stating that the US “fired more rounds in five months in Raqqa, Syria, than any other Marine artillery battalion, or any Marine or Army battalion, since the Vietnam War.”
“Unless the Coalition learns from its mistakes in Raqqa – and Mosul beforehand – it will be doomed to repeat them, with civilians again paying a devastating price,” Rovera concluded.
US airstrikes have continued to take place across the east of Syria, allegedly targeting Daesh militants. At least eight civilians were killed yesterday, with dozens more wounded after strikes in the eastern Deir Ez-Zor province. According to the UN, coalition airstrikes have killed more than 2,000 civilians and displaced thousands more since the intervention began.
In May, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said that the US will not withdraw its forces from Syria unless peace is fully achieved throughout the country.
“We do not want to simply pull out before the diplomats have won the peace, so you win the fight and then you win the peace,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.
The announcement came after conflicting statements from US President Donald Trump and the State Department earlier this year on the US’s future presence in the region.