At least 33 people have been killed by the latest presumed US-led coalition airstrike campaign in Syria. The attack occurred in the northern province of Raqqa, near the village of Al-Mansoura, at a school that provided shelter and housed 50 displaced families from Raqqa, Aleppo, and Homs. The death toll is expected to rise as there is inadequate medical care and remaining hospitals that are “rendered inoperable,” according to activists reporting in the area.
Raqqa has been the prominent focus of targeted airstrikes this month as it is the remaining stronghold and self-declared capital for terrorist organization Daesh, which is operating in Syria. The air campaign has targeted Daesh fighters and infrastructure in a bid to eradicate the threat of the terror organization. Nonetheless, an official statement has failed to confirm whether this particular alleged civilian casualty was a result of a US-led coalition activity. Earlier this month, the coalition forces admitted that its raids in Syria and Iraq unintentionally killed at least 220 civilians since the beginning of their campaign. Human rights organizations place this figure far higher with the Syrian Observatory, who operates within Syria and recorded 116 civilian deaths by airstrikes in March alone. The latest coalition report, by monitoring group Airwars, estimates the minimum civilians killed by the coalition at 2,715 men, women, and children.
As the civil war in Syria continues there has been an increase in international response through diplomacy and proposed military tactics. There is a scheduled upcoming meeting in Washington with top officials from the 68-nation alliance fighting Daesh. The meeting aims to provide clarification surrounding President Donald Trump’s plan to eradicate Daesh’s presence in Iraq and Syria. This has, thus far, remained ambiguous without any clear guidelines on how this is to be achieved. Furthermore, there has been an increased armed presence in Syria. On the ground, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Kurdish-led militias backed by the coalition have been directly involved in fighting in the conflict and expressed an anticipated assault to recapture the city of Raqqa from the terrorist group. They declared this offensive would begin as early as April. Whilst the Pentagon has yet to confirm this, they recently declared a “reassure and deter” mission in Syria, which saw approximately 200 US marines deployed into the area.
The latest attack through the US-led coalition air campaign raises concerning issues. The dramatic difference in official figures released by the coalition and the monitoring groups either reveal a warped understanding of the fatalities of this war or is used as justification for the US-led offensive. It is important to acknowledge that destroying Daesh’s militarily does not eradicate the ideological threat from the terror organization. Therefore, further consideration should be given to minimalize collateral damage and, inevitably, the loss of innocent lives, rather than treating the loss as a necessary means in which to destroy the threat of Daesh.