Four years of coalition strikes on Syria kill 3,300 civilians: monitor

Rebel fighters from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement walk on a hill in Jabal al-Arbaeen, which overlooks the northern town of Ariha, one of the last government strongholds in the Idlib province May 26, 2015. (Reuters)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Four years of coalition strikes on Syria kill 3,300 civilians: monitor

  • The Washington-led alliance puts the toll at just over 1,000 civilians in both Syria and neighboring Iraq
  • “Among those killed are 826 children and 615 women,” said the Observatory

BEIRUT: More than 3,000 civilians have been killed in US-led coalition air strikes against the Daesh group in Syria since they began four years ago, a monitor said on Sunday.
The Washington-led alliance puts the toll at just over 1,000 civilians in both Syria and neighboring Iraq, and says it does all it can to prevent civilian deaths.
The coalition began bombing Daesh targets in Iraq in August 2014 after the jihadist group seized swathes of territory straddling the two countries, proclaiming an Islamic “caliphate.”
The coalition extended its strikes to Syria on September 23, 2014.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said on Sunday those Syria strikes had since killed 3,331 civilians.
The monitor relies on a network of sources inside Syria and tracks flight patterns, aircraft involved and ammunition used to determine who carries out raids.
“Among those killed are 826 children and 615 women,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
The coalition says it takes every possible precaution to prevent civilian deaths.
In its latest civilian casualty report published last month, the coalition said its strikes had unintentionally killed 1,061 civilians in both Iraq and Syria up until July 30, 2018.
It is still assessing a further 216 reports of civilian casualties, some of them in strikes dating back to 2014.
Asked if the coalition could specify how many of the confirmed casualties were in Syria, spokesman Sean Ryan said it “does not breakdown strikes by type, platform, munition, region or nation.”
“As far any discrepancy in numbers, the coalition is basing the findings on facts and evidence. We are not claiming to provide exact numbers, but saying it is based on the best available evidence,” he told AFP.
Ryan said the coalition remained willing to work with anyone to investigate allegations and asked other monitors to share what metrics they were using to determine casualties.
Rights groups have criticized the coalition for not pursuing investigations of civilian casualties rigorously enough.
In June, Amnesty International said the coalition’s bombing raids of Daesh’s de facto Syrian capital Raqqa last year may amount to “potential war crimes.”
“The artificially low number of civilian casualties the coalition acknowledges stems in part from poor investigation procedures that fail even to involve on-the-ground research,” it said at the time.
The coalition’s operations have largely wound down, with the jihadists ousted from all but tiny bits of territory in Syria.
More than 360,000 people have been killed across Syria since the conflict broke out in 2011, nearly a third of them civilians, according to the Observatory.


Ports deal is chance for Yemen peace talks, says UN envoy

Updated 21 February 2019
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Ports deal is chance for Yemen peace talks, says UN envoy

  • Forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa
  • The second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers, depending on the location and fighters

NEW YORK: The expected pullout of forces from three key ports in Yemen provides an opportunity to move to the major goal of ending the four-year conflict that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the UN envoy for the war-battered country said on Tuesday.

Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that Yemen’s government and Houthi militias demonstrated that they are able to deliver on commitments they made in December in Stockholm by agreeing on the first phase of redeployment from the ports.

He said forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, beginning “possibly” on Tuesday or Wednesday. This will be followed by a pullout from the major port of Hodeidah and critical parts of the city that will allow access to the Red Sea Mills, a major UN storage facility holding enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, he said.

Griffiths called on the parties to fully implement the first phase and to agree on details of the second phase of the redeployment of forces, “which we hope will lead to the demilitarization” of Hodeidah, whose port handles about 70 percent of Yemen’s commercial and humanitarian imports.

A UN official said the first phase involves pulling back several kilometers, and the second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers, depending on the location and fighters. In some places in Hodeidah city, the opposing forces are facing each other about 100 meters apart, the official said.

The UN is appealing for more than $4 billion to assist 15 million Yemenis this year and UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock implored donors to pledge generously at a conference next week in Geneva.