The U.S. led coalition’s battle to defeat the Islamic State (IS) appears to be entering its final stages. However, it coming at the cost of civilian lives is a terrible fact Syrians and the rest of the world have to live with. The coalition’s intense bombardment of Syria has been particularly devastating to the country’s civilian population, where reports of civilians killed by coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have climbed in recent months.
For instance, U.S. airstrikes between May 23 and June 23 in Syria hit the highest civilian death toll for a single month since the U.S. began its operation in September 2014. According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, U.S. airstrikes on two Syrian provinces, killed 472 civilians last month, of which 222 civilians and 84 children were killed in Dayr al-Zawr and 250 civilians, including 53 children, were killed in Raqqah province. Compared to the previous 30 days, this number has more than double, stated Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The new deaths brought the overall civilian toll from the coalition’s campaign to 1,953. American officials attribute the rise to the increasingly urban nature of the battle to defeat the jihadists.
Nevertheless, the highest level of civilian death has brought up questions over U.S. President Donald Trump’s focus on military operations. Human rights groups blame the new U.S.A. administration changes for the increased toll. Most importantly, President Trump’s decision to give the military the total authority to decide on how much force is to be used has exacerbated the problem, as previously such authorities were closely held by the former U.S. President Barack Obama.
As a result, many argue that the United States led coalition fighting the Islamic State has been killing Iraqi and Syrian civilians at astounding rates since President Trump took office. Similarly, the United Nations’ independent Commission of Inquiry into the Syrian civil war blamed the U.S. airstrikes for “staggering loss of civilian life.” The American military acknowledged these claims of nongovernmental monitoring groups and stated that “at least 484 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes” during this time. However, estimates by independent monitors, such as Airwars, a watchdog group, are much higher, as they estimate approximately 4,000 civilian deaths.
With that being said, increased civilian causalities are feared to “cause significant strategic setbacks” as they can reduce local cooperation. At the same time, the toll may help ISIS to gain significant support in the area. Above all, having around 100,000 civilians trapped in Raqqa, many including Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN’s human rights chief, argue that “civilians must not be sacrificed for the sake of rapid military victories.
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