Saturday, April 15, 2017

In Iraq,, Mosul residents asked to remain in homes and are then bombed

(March 30) Residents in Mosul were instructed not to leave their homes ahead of airstrikes last week that are reported to have killed more than 150 civilians.

The LA Times reports:
Before the start of the offensive, the government air-dropped leaflets and broadcast messages on television urging residents to shelter in place, because camps for displaced people were already crowded and leaders feared that Islamic State fighters would turn a mass exodus into a mass slaughter.
Amnesty International said that the recent spike in casualties suggests that the US-led coalition is not taking adquate precautions to avoid civilian casualties. The US accuses the Islamic State as using civilians as human shields. However, this does not explain the notice given by the Iraq government. No doubt snipers work from roofs of houses containing many civilians but this does not provide a justification for bombing the house which appears to be what happens often. The sniper can be taken out without destroying the house and its inhabitants. It is just more difficult.
The coalition has already acknowledged that the US military was behind a March 17 airstrike on an area of western Mosul. Residents claim that at least 150 civilians were killed. US officials said that an investigation was underway into the incident. The Pentagon said that it was reviewing more than 700 video feeds of coalition airstrikes on west Mosul. Colonel JT Thomas a spokesperson for the US Central Command said that a high priority was being put on investigating the Mosul reports. Donatella Rovera, an adviser at Amnesty International said: “The fact that Iraqi authorities repeatedly advised civilians to remain at home, instead of fleeing the area, indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties. Disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes.” Amnesty also reported that evidence gathered on the ground shows that there was a pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes completely destroying houses with families inside. Faced with tough resistance in western Mosul, particularly the old city area with many narrow lanes that military vehicles cannot enter, there has been increased reliance by the coalition and Iraqi forces on artillery and airstrikes. The UN estimates there are still about 400,000 people in Mosul trapped in the IS held area.
The Amnesty International report cited survivors and eyewitnesses of the airstrikes that killed civilians as saying: “They did not try to flee as the battle got underway because they received repeated instructions from the Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes.” Colonel Thomas said at a Pentagon conference: “In Mosul, there are multiple days of strikes. The numbers of civilian casualties that have been reported variously – one of the things we’re looking at is if some of those numbers are cumulative from different incidents, different engagements, in this highly contested, very ferocious battle that’s going on in Mosul. We know that we were dropping bombs in the immediate vicinity.” He said that the bombs were quite precise. Surely, this means the attackers knew when they were hitting houses that likely contained civilians.
Brigadier General Matthew Isler, a deputy commanding general in Operation Inherent Resolve claimed that coalition aircraft had dropped more than 500 precision guided munitions each week so far in March, even reaching 605 one week. On a typical day:...the coalition flies A-10 Warthogs, Navy F/A-18s, Marine Corps Harriers, French Rafale fighters, Belgian F-16s, British Typhoons, and U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses to support the fight, run out of the Combined Air Operations Center. They are supported by dozens of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft — manned and unmanned, and some armed — and six electronic warfare aircraft, as well as tankers providing 430,000 gallons of gas a day to allow fighters and bombers to fly longer.The result of such bombardments on civilians is likely to lead to increased anger among Sunni civilians who will blame the Americans and the Iraqi government for the high death toll. This anger could be used as a recruiting tool by militants to turn them against the Shia-dominated Iraqi government.

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