On Wednesday, March 22nd of 2017, the local news reported dozens injured and killed in a presumable U.S-led coalition airstrike on a Syrian school, west of Raqqa. The school was said to be sheltering about 50 families fleeing ISIL, consisting mostly of women and children.
It is estimated that 33 people were killed in the air strike, although locals say the numbers could be higher. The Syrian opposition group of journalists, “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” or RBSS, said in its twitter posts that the U.S-led coalition was responsible for the air strike and pleaded, “the international community must intervene to stop this.”
The attack follows a separate US- led coalition strike on a mosque complex in the northwest of the country last Saturday, that killed at least 52 people – making it the deadliest civilian attack alleged against the coalition since it began its campaign against ISIL two years ago. Earlier this month, the US coalition accepted that their airstrikes accidentally killed 220 civilians in air raids in both Syria and Iraq. However, the monitoring group Airwars estimates about 2,700 civilians have been killed in the anti-ISIS bombings.
The Trump administration is considering lifting the rules of engagement enacted by the Obama administration, which sought to avoid civilian deaths. The review of such rules governing drones is considered to give military planners more flexibility on ordering strikes. The US-led coalition has heightened airstrikes in recent months in a bid to eradicate “Islamist terror” in the country, notwithstanding civilian deaths.
The raging war in Syria has been catastrophic to civilian populations, especially vulnerable groups, such as women and children. The airstrikes carried out have hit several civilian populated areas such as schools, mosques, and hospitals in Syria. There is indeed cause for alarm, as the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Optional Protocols of 1977 provide that civilian populated areas such as schools and hospitals should not be attacked and stipulates that the principle of distinction be upheld – yet civilian casualty in the Syrian conflict is on the rise.
The talks between the warring factions have stalled on previous occasions with minimal ceasefire success. The core of the talks have been to implement the United Nations Security Council 2254 adopted in 2015, that seeks to create accountable governance, a new constitution and UN-supervised elections within 18 months. Along with the agenda of negotiations, anti-terrorism has also been included at the top of the list. There is, however, a reason to be optimistic, as United Nations-led talks are to resume once more in Geneva with UN-envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in their fifth round in a bid to pacify the six-year-long war and put an end to civilian deaths.