Civilian Death Toll From U.S. Airstrikes Hits Highest Level In Syria

U.S. airstrikes between May 23 and June 23 in Syria led to the highest civilian death toll for a single month since the country 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 is more than double, stated Rami Abdel Rahman, who is 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.

The highest level of civilian death has brought President Donald Trump’s focus on military operations into question, as human rights groups claim the new U.S. administration’s changes are responsible for the increased toll. 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 over 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.” Two weeks ago, 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.

Many argue that 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.

With that said, increased civilian causalities are feared to “cause significant strategic setbacks” as it can reduce local cooperation. At the same time, the toll may help ISIS to gain significant support in the area.

Yeshihareg Abebe