Airwars: Over 430 civilians likely died in August by US-led coalition actions in anti-ISIL push in Syrian city

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Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail|21 September 2017| 29 Dhul Hijjah 1438

Every eight minutes last month, a bomb, missile or shell was fired on the Syrian city of Raqqa by a US-led coalition battling ISIL, resulting in at least 433 likely civilian deaths, according to a report released by a UK-based monitor.

Airwars, a group tracking civilian deaths in Russian and US-led coalition air raids in Syria and Iraq, said on Wednesday that the US-led forces dropped a total of 5,775 bombs, shells and missiles in support of an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground advancing into the city.

“What we are seeing now is really a devastating coalition barrage on the city,” Chris Woods, director of Airwars, told Al Jazeera.

“More munitions were dropped on Raqqa in August than even during the heaviest fighting in west Mosul,” he added, referring to a major offensive to recapture the northern Iraqi city from ISIL earlier this year.

“And the effects on civilians trapped in the city have been equally devastating.”

Airwars said at least 433 Raqqa civilians likely died last month as a result of coalition actions, bringing the total since the anti-ISIL assault began on June 6 to more than 1,000.

According to the UK-based group, the majority of strikes have been conducted by the US, with support from its French, Belgian and British allies.

“This ferocious bombing by the US in the city is leading to significant civilian casualties,” Woods said, adding that the coalition has so far acknowledged only four deaths from two incidents since the beginning of the new military offensive to recapture Raqqa, ISIL’s self-declared capital in Syria.

‘Highest priority’
The coalition, according to its own estimates, has dropped at least 16,500 munitions in Raqqa and its surrounding areas since June.

It says it follows a strict and specific targeting process to minimise risks to non-combatants.

In an emailed statement to Al Jazeera, the coalition acknowledged the deaths of at least 685 civilians in its attacks in Syria and Iraq since the start of its anti-ISIL operations in 2014 – but rights groups say the number is much higher.

“The avoidance of civilian casualties is our highest priority when conducting strikes against legitimate military targets with precision munitions, unlike the indiscriminate nature of ISIS tactics which result in an enormous number of avoidable civilian deaths,” the press office of the Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said.

Meanwhile, data released by the US Air Force show that during operations in August, more weapons were dropped in Syria and Iraq than any other month during the three-year campaign against ISIL.

Source – Al Jazeera