‘9,000-plus died in battle with Daesh for Mosul’

‘9,000-plus died in battle with Daesh for Mosul’
Fatima Ahmed Aswad cries, as the body of her 15-year-old daughter Sana is exhumed in Mosul for forensic investigation in order to receive a death certificate in this file photo. (AP)
Updated 20 December 2017

‘9,000-plus died in battle with Daesh for Mosul’

‘9,000-plus died in battle with Daesh for Mosul’

MOSUL: The price Mosul’s residents paid in blood to see their city freed was between 9,000 and 11,000 dead, a civilian casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than what has been previously reported. The number killed in the 9-month battle to liberate the city from the Daesh marauders has not been acknowledged by the US-led coalition, the Iraqi government or Daesh.
But Mosul’s gravediggers, its morgue workers and the volunteers who retrieve bodies from the city’s rubble are keeping count.
Iraqi or coalition forces are responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths from airstrikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds between October 2016 and the fall of Daesh in July 2017, according to an Associated Press investigation that cross-referenced independent databases from non-governmental organizations.
Most of those victims are simply described as “crushed” in Health Ministry reports.
The coalition, which says it lacks the resources to send investigators into Mosul, acknowledges responsibility for only 326 of the deaths.
“It was the biggest assault on a city in a couple of generations, all told. And thousands died,” said Chris Woods, head of Airwars, an independent organization that documents air and artillery strikes in Iraq and Syria and shared its database with the AP.
“There doesn’t seem to be any disagreement about that, except from the federal government and the coalition. And understanding how those civilians died, and obviously ISIS (Daesh) played a big part in that as well, could help save a lot of lives the next time something like this has to happen. And the disinterest in any sort of investigation is very disheartening,” Woods said.
In addition to the Airwars database, the AP analyzed information from Amnesty International, Iraq Body Count and a UN report. AP also obtained a list of 9,606 names of people killed during the operation from Mosul’s morgue. Hundreds of dead civilians are believed to still be buried in the rubble.
Of the nearly 10,000 deaths the AP found, around a third of the casualties died in bombardments by the US-led coalition or Iraqi forces, the AP analysis found. Another third of the dead were killed in the Daesh group’s final frenzy of violence. And it could not be determined which side was responsible for the deaths of the remainder, who were cowering in neighborhoods battered by airstrikes, Daesh explosives and mortar rounds from all sides.
But the morgue total would be many times higher than official tolls. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi told the AP that 1,260 civilians were killed in the fighting. The US-led coalition has not offered an overall figure. The coalition relies on drone footage, video from cameras mounted on weapons systems and pilot observations. Its investigators have neither visited the morgue nor requested its data.
What is clear from the tallies is that as coalition and Iraqi government forces increased their pace, civilians were dying in ever higher numbers at the hands of their liberators: From 20 — the week the operation began in mid-October 2016 — to 303 in a single week at the end of June 2017, according to the AP tally.
Abdel-Hafiz Mohammed, who kept his job as undertaker throughout the militants’ rule, has carved approximately 2,000 headstones for the Al-Jadidah graveyard alone since October 2016, the month the battle began.
After the city fell to Daesh in 2014, undertakers like him handled the victims of beheadings and stoning; there were men accused of homosexuality who had been flung from rooftops. But once the operation to free the city started, the scope of Mohammed’s work changed yet again.
“Now I carve stones for entire families,” Mohammed said, gesturing to a stack of four headstones, all bearing the same name. “It’s a single family, all killed in an airstrike,” he said.
Dying at home, on the front
Mosul was home to more than a million civilians before the fight to retake it from Daesh. Fearing a massive humanitarian crisis, the Iraqi government dropped leaflets or had soldiers tell families to stay put as the final battle loomed in late 2016.
Thousands were trapped as the front line enveloped densely populated neighborhoods.
Blast injuries, gunshot wounds and shrapnel wounds killed thousands as the Mosul operation ground westward, according to morgue documents.
When Iraqi forces became bogged down in late December, the Pentagon adjusted the rules regarding the use of airpower, allowing airstrikes to be called in by more ground commanders with less chain- of-command oversight.
At the same time, Daesh fighters took thousands of civilians with them in their retreat west. They packed hundreds of families into schools and government buildings, sometimes shunting civilians through tunnels from one fighting position to another.
They expected the tactic would dissuade airstrikes and artillery. They were wrong.
As the fight punched into western Mosul, the morgue logs filled with civilians increasingly killed by being “blown to pieces.”
By early March, Iraqi officials and the US-led coalition could see that civilian deaths were spiking, but held the course. The result, in Mosul and later in the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, was a city left in ruins by the battle to save it.
Most of the civilians killed in west Mosul died under the weight of collapsed buildings, hit by airstrikes, mortars, artillery shells or Daesh-laid explosives. The morgue provided lists of names of civilians and place of death. Names often included entire families.
The coalition has defended its operational choices, saying it was Daesh that put civilians in danger as it clung to power.
“It is simply irresponsible to focus criticism on inadvertent casualties caused by the Coalition’s war to defeat” Daesh, Col. Thomas Veale, a coalition spokesman, told the AP in response to questions about civilian deaths.
“Without the Coalition’s air and ground campaign against ISIS (Daesh), there would have inevitably been additional years, if not decades of suffering and needless death and mutilation in Syria and Iraq at the hands of terrorists who lack any ethical or moral standards,” he added.
Civilian deaths in the second half of the battle reflected the looser rules of engagement for airstrikes and the sheer numbers of trapped residents. From Oct. 17 to Feb. 19, the AP tally found at least 576 deaths by coalition or Iraqi munitions.
From Feb. 19 — when the fight crossed the Tigris River — to mid-July, there were nearly 2,400 civilian deaths. That total is in addition to the 326 confirmed by the coalition in the city. The US and Australia are the only two coalition countries to acknowledge civilian deaths, although France had fighter jets and artillery and the UK also carried out airstrikes.
Of the nearly 10,000 names listed by the morgue, around 4,200 were confirmed as civilian dead in the battle. The AP discarded names that were obviously those of Daesh fighters, and casualties brought in from outside Mosul. Among the remaining 6,000 are likely some number of Daesh extremists, but the morgue civilian toll tracks closely with numbers gathered during the battle itself by Airwars and others.
Neither toll includes thousands of people killed by Daesh who are believed to be in mass graves in and around Mosul, including as many as 4,000 in the natural crevasse known as Khasfa.
Imad Ibrahim, a civil defense rescuer from west Mosul, survived the battle to retake the city and is now tasked with excavating the dead. He mostly works in the Old City, where on a recent day the streets still reeked of rotting flesh.
“Sometimes you can see the bodies, they’re visible under the rubble, other times we dig for hours and suddenly find 15 to 30 all in one place. That’s when you know they were sheltering, hiding from the airstrikes,” Ibrahim said.
Behind him an excavator dug through jagged cement blocks, searching for the body of a woman who was hiding in her home when it was hit by an airstrike.
Ibrahim said he spent years waiting for liberation, but that the victory itself was hollow.
“Honestly, none of this was worth it.”
Digging into death
By dawn, dozens of Mosul families begin to line up outside the civil defense office each day. One by one they flatly describe their personal tragedies: “We buried my cousin’s body in the garden under the tree.”
“My mother was hiding in the back of the house, near the kitchen when the airstrike hit her home.” “We buried my father in the street in front of our home after he was shot.”
Radwan Majid said he lost both his children to an airstrike in May.
“There were three Daesh in front of my house, so when the airstrike hit it also killed my children,” he said using an Arabic acronym for the group.
“We can see their bodies under the rubble, but we can’t reach them by ourselves,” he said. “All I want is to give them a proper burial.”
Reports of civilian deaths began to dominate military planning meetings in Baghdad in February and early March, according to a senior Western diplomat who was present but not authorized to speak on the record.
After allegations surfaced that a single coalition strike killed hundreds of civilians in Mosul’s Al-Jadidah neighborhood on March 17, the entire fight was put on hold for three weeks. Under intense international pressure, the coalition sent a team into the city to investigate.
Iraq’s special forces units were instructed that they were no longer allowed to call in strikes on buildings. Instead, the forces were told to call in coalition airstrikes on gardens and roads adjacent to Daesh targets.
A Whatsapp group shared by coalition advisers and Iraqi forces coordinating airstrikes previously named “killing daesh 24/7” was wryly renamed “scaring daesh 24/7.”
“It was clear that the whole strategy in western Mosul had to be reconfigured,” said the Western diplomat.
But on the ground, Iraqi special forces officers said after the operational pause, they returned to the fight just as before.
The Whatsapp group’s name was changed back to “killing daesh.”
The Pentagon investigation into the March strike concluded that a US bomb resulted in the deaths of 105 civilians but ultimately blamed secondary explosions from Daesh-laid bombs.
The 500-pound bomb, the investigation concluded, “appropriately balanced the military necessity of neutralizing (two IS) snipers.” Witnesses and survivors told AP that Daesh had not set any explosives in the house that was hit, which was packed with families sheltering from the fighting.
At the time, just two American officers were fielding all allegations of civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria from a base in Kuwait. The team now has seven members, though none sets foot inside the city or routinely collects physical evidence.
The Americans say they do not have the resources to send a team into Mosul; an AP reporter visited the morgue six times in six weeks and spoke to morgue officials and staffers dozens of times in person and over the phone.
Because of what the coalition considers insufficient information, the majority of civilian casualty allegations are deemed “not credible” before an investigation ever begins .
Col. Joseph Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, defended the coalition figures in an interview in May, saying they may seem low because of a meticulous process designed to “get to the truth” and help protect civilians in the future.
“I do believe the victims of these strikes deserve to know what happened to their families. We owe them that,” Scrocca said.
Daoud Salem Mahmoud survived the fight for the Old City by hiding with his family in a windowless room deep inside their home.
With the fight over, Mahmoud now returns to his neighborhood daily to retrieve the dead. He has recovered hundreds of bodies of extended family members and neighbors.
A large, imposing figure, Mahmoud breaks down in tears when asked to describe specific days or events at the height of the violence. But without a moment of hesitation he said he believes the fight to retake the city was worthwhile.
Despite the death and destruction, he said he now feels like his family has a chance at a future brighter than his own.
“Everything can be rebuilt, it’s the lives lost that cannot be replaced,” he said, then shaking his head, added, “this war, it turned Mosul into a graveyard.”


Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet
Updated 26 min 6 sec ago

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar al Assad has again tasked Prime Minister Hussein Arnous with forming a new government after he became a caretaker premier following polls last year that extended Assad's presidency.
Assad designated Arnous as prime minister last August to replace Imad Khamis as Syria grappled with a major economic crisis and a plunging currency.


Israelis protest as rising COVID-19 cases trigger new rules

Israelis protest as rising COVID-19 cases trigger new rules
Updated 22 min 17 sec ago

Israelis protest as rising COVID-19 cases trigger new rules

Israelis protest as rising COVID-19 cases trigger new rules
  • Protesters Saturday flew a banner that read, “There’s no pandemic, it’s a con”
  • About one million Israelis still refuse to be vaccinated even though they are eligible

TEL AVIV: Several hundred Israelis demonstrated Saturday in Tel Aviv against new coronavirus restrictions and vaccines as positive cases and hospitalizations rose to levels not seen in months.

The health ministry reported Saturday that 2,435 new Covid cases had been recorded the day before — the highest number since March — driven by the more contagious Delta variant.

There were 326 hospitalizations, the highest since April, although well below the January peak, when more than 2,000 people were being hospitalized daily.

Israel has in recent days rolled out a booster vaccine shot for older citizens, reimposed mask requirements indoors and restored “green pass” restrictions requiring vaccine certificates for entering enclosed spaces such as gyms, restaurants and hotels.

The rise in infections is a step back after Israel’s world-leading vaccine campaign drove down new COVID-19 cases from 10,000 a day to fewer than 100.

Protesters Saturday flew a banner that read, “There’s no pandemic, it’s a con.” They held up placards denouncing coronavirus vaccines, with one poster linking vaccines to the Nazis.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told Israeli Channel 12 TV Saturday that he intended to balance public health with livelihood.

“The economy must remain open,” he said.

“I don’t want to impose a lockdown and I will avoid a lockdown at all costs. Everything is open — but we need masks and we need vaccines.”

Nearly 60 percent of Israel’s 9.3 million people have gotten two shots, mostly with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

But about one million Israelis still refuse to be vaccinated even though they are eligible.

From Sunday, some children between ages five and 11 at risk of health complications will become eligible for vaccines.


Lebanese patients’ deaths due to medicine shortages ‘will become common’

Importers of medicine and medical supplies in Lebanon requires BDL ‘to pay all outstanding payments for import companies.’ (Supplied)
Importers of medicine and medical supplies in Lebanon requires BDL ‘to pay all outstanding payments for import companies.’ (Supplied)
Updated 01 August 2021

Lebanese patients’ deaths due to medicine shortages ‘will become common’

Importers of medicine and medical supplies in Lebanon requires BDL ‘to pay all outstanding payments for import companies.’ (Supplied)
  • Girl, 9, stung by scorpion, dies as vital medicines can only be found on black market at exorbitant prices

BEIRUT: A Lebanese child, Zahra Tleis, died on Friday, after being stung by a scorpion, and her family being unable to find an antidote to treat her, due to medicine shortages in the country.

Some vital medicines can only now be found on the black market, but are sold at exorbitant prices.
The director of Rafik Hariri Governmental Hospital, Dr. Firas Abiad, said “unfortunately, losing patients due to medicine shortages will become more common.”
The head of the National Health Authority, Ismail Sukkarieh, revealed to Arab News that even treatments for dog bites were missing from shelves.
“Such injections should be be available in large quantities in hospitals, and especially governmental hospitals, but have gone missing due to negligence and the medicine crisis.”
Sukkariyeh said the Lebanese people “are paying the price for the irresponsibility of officials and the accumulation of ill-conceived, corrupt and scandalous policies.” He warned that the country will completely collapse if the situation persists.

Zahra Tleis

Lebanon has been facing an economic collapse since 2019, described by the World Bank as “one of the world’s worst crises since the 1850s.” More than half of the population now lives under the poverty line as the local currency, the lira, has lost over 90 percent of its value against the US dollar.
With the depletion of foreign currency reserves at the Lebanese central bank, the Banque du Liban (BDL) and delays in opening lines of credits for imports, the health sector has been facing increasing pressure and fuel shortages.

HIGHLIGHT

Lebanese people ‘are paying the price for the irresponsibility of officials and the accumulation of ill-conceived, corrupt and scandalous policies.’

The country’s electricity company, Electricité du Liban (EDL) has also been unable to provide power due to fuel shortages, and some regions have had to ration electricity for 22 hours a day. Owners of private generators have also been affected by the diesel and fuel crisis, and have resorted to rationing as well.
On Friday the BDL said it sold $293 million in July, in addition to approvals to sell $415 million to import gasoline and diesel and $120 million to import fuel for EDL, bringing the total number to $828 million.
The BDL said in a statement that “despite all the support it (the bank) has provided and its determination to preserve social security, the Lebanese are still facing shortages in diesel.
“The Lebanese have lost access to subsidized goods, which are now sold on the black market to humiliate and deprive the Lebanese of their most basic rights. This has had dangerous impacts on the health sector and food security, due to traders’ determination to smuggle goods or store them to be sold on the black market,” the statement added.
It added that importers of medicine and medical supplies in Lebanon required BDL “to pay all outstanding payments for import companies.” It considered that “frivolous measures have led to the partial or total suspension of imports of 75 percent of companies.”
EDL warned “of the possibility of entering the danger zone and a total interruption of electricity, if the situation persisted.”
Economist Louis Hobeika told Arab News that “there is political and economic pressure on BDL to use the mandatory reserves. But this matter requires a constitutional amendment and such ‘sin’ shall not be committed twice.”
Hobeika recalled what Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in May that “the bank’s reserves in 2002 were drawn down to less than a billion dollars.”
Hobeika said that “removing subsidies would end the smuggling, but prices would increase a lot. A ration card was supposed to be issued as an alternative. What happened to this card? With the absence of a future economic vision, messing with the mandatory reserves can have a great risk on the fate of banks and deposits.”
He said that “the political and economic (Lebanese) mafias are stronger than the state; they fear no one, and Lebanese society is divided and fragmented and therefore, does not scare the mafias.”
Meanwhile, political leaders in Lebanon have congratulated the military ahead of Lebanese Army Day, which is celebrated every year on August 1.
President Michel Aoun said “the international community’s determination and commitment to support the Lebanese army reflects its confidence in the army’s role in protecting Lebanon and its constitutional institutions.”
The army on Saturday carried out a raid on a drug factory in Hortaala, Bekaa.
The army command announced that “a soldier was wounded during the raid, and a wanted man that had multiple warrants for his arrest, including robbing citizens, kidnapping, stealing cars, drug dealing, drug use and (firearms charges) was killed. Several other fugitives were arrested.”
Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun urged soldiers “not to allow anyone to take advantage of the poor living conditions to make you doubt your belief in your country and institution.”


UN urged to curb ‘Iranian terrorism’ after armed drone strike on tanker

UN urged to curb ‘Iranian terrorism’ after armed drone strike on tanker
Updated 01 August 2021

UN urged to curb ‘Iranian terrorism’ after armed drone strike on tanker

UN urged to curb ‘Iranian terrorism’ after armed drone strike on tanker
  • Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he has ordered the nation’s diplomats to push for UN action against “Iranian terrorism”

JEDDAH: The UN was urged on Saturday to take action against “Iranian terrorism” after a tanker was attacked by explosives-laden drones in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Oman.

Two crewmen, one British and one Romanian, died in Thursday’s attack on the MT Mercer Street, which was on its way from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the UAE.

The US military said that early indications “clearly point” to a drone strike on the Mercer Street.

Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV channel, citing “informed regional sources,” said the attack was a “response to a recent Israeli attack” targeting an airport in central Syria where Iran is backing the regime.

The Liberian-flagged Japanese-owned vessel is operated by Zodiac Maritime, an Israeli company based in the UK. On Saturday the ship was being escorted into port by the American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

“US Navy personnel are on the Mercer Street, assisting the vessel’s crew,” the US military’s Central Command said. “US navy explosives experts are aboard to ensure there is no additional danger to the crew, and are prepared to support an investigation into the attack.”

The maritime industry analysts Dryad Global said the attack had “the hallmarks of the ongoing Israel/Iran ‘shadow war’.”

It said the attack was the fifth against a ship connected to Israel since February, and two ships linked to Iran had been attacked in the same period.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid ordered his country’s diplomats to push for UN action against “Iranian terrorism.”

He said: “I’ve instructed the embassies in Washington, London and the UN to work with their interlocutors in government and the relevant delegations in the UN headquarters in New York.

“Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that are hurting us all.”

Lapid said he had also spoken to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, stressing “the need to respond severely to the attack on the ship in which a British citizen was killed.”

The US military said early indications “clearly point” to a drone strike on the Mercer Street. Several unmanned Iranian drones appear to have carried out the attack, crashing into living quarters under the ship’s command center.

Iranian state TV said the drone strike was retaliation to “a recent Israeli attack” on Iranian targets at an airport in central Syria.

Several unmanned Iranian drones appear to have carried out the attack on the Mercer Street, crashing into living quarters under the ship’s command center, the New York Times reported citing anonymous Israeli officials.

A US official told the newspaper Americans boarded the ship to investigate the attack.

By Friday afternoon, Zodiac Maritime said the ship was “sailing under the control of her crew” to a safe location under the protection of a US naval escort.

HIGHLIGHT

Several Iranian drones appear to have carried out the attack, crashing into living quarters under the ship’s command center.

The strike on the tanker comes as European powers meet with Iran in an effort to shore up a 2015 agreement to curtail the Islamic republic’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.

The accord was strained when in 2018 former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US unilaterally and reimposed sanctions.

Negotiations in Vienna, where the US is indirectly taking part, have stalled ahead of next week’s inauguration of newly elected ultra-conservative Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi.

Retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said the attack appeared to copy elements of an Israeli exploding drone strike on a centrifuge manufacturing site in Iran in June.

Israel “started developing drones and was among the first to develop the concept of a kamikaze,” Gen. Brom said.

“The Iranians are imitating us and adopting the same techniques.” Iran’s strike was “a certain escalation but aimed at avoiding a full-scale war,” he said. “They are not interested in a wider escalation, just as we are not interested in a wider escalation.”

In June, Iran said it had foiled a sabotage attack on an atomic energy agency building near the city of Karaj west of Tehran.

But aerial photographs obtained by private Israeli intelligence firm The Intel Lab revealed damage to the site.

(With AFP)


Deal signed to expand Russian presence in Suez Canal Economic Zone

Under the deal, the Russian zone will be extended to East Port Said and Ain Sokhna over an area of 5 million square meters. (Reuters/File Photo)
Under the deal, the Russian zone will be extended to East Port Said and Ain Sokhna over an area of 5 million square meters. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 31 July 2021

Deal signed to expand Russian presence in Suez Canal Economic Zone

Under the deal, the Russian zone will be extended to East Port Said and Ain Sokhna over an area of 5 million square meters. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • he SCZone chief said that work is scheduled to begin in the Russian zone by the end of 2021

CAIRO: Yehia Zaki, head of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone), announced on Thursday the success of talks with Russia to expand Moscow’s industrial zone within the SCZone.

An agreement was signed by Zaki and Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of Vasiliy Osmakov in Moscow after two days of negotiations.

Zaki said the final agreement is expected to be signed before the end of 2021 after an anticipated visit in August by a high-level Russian delegation to tour the new sites in the SCZone.

Under the deal, the Russian zone will be extended to East Port Said and Ain Sokhna over an area of 5 million square meters, Zaki said.

The first phase of the project will include an extension of 1 million square meters in East Port Said and 500,000 square meters in Ain Sokhna, he added.

The SCZone chief said that work is scheduled to begin in the Russian zone by the end of 2021 after signing the final contract.

Osmakov said the Egyptian delegation’s visit to Russia gave impetus to the project.

He said the expansion of the Russian zone will allow the entry of more Russian companies, adding that the SCZone is a window to Africa and the wider world due to its strategic location.

In September visits from Russian companies, businessmen and investors — who have expressed their desire to invest in Ain Sukhna — will take place.

The SCZone delegation held meetings in Moscow with major Russian manufacturers of vehicles, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals.