Reports

Reports

Published

August 2016

Written by

Alex Hopkins

In July the Coalition campaign to liberate the northern Syrian town of Manbij in Aleppo built towards a fierce conclusion. Daesh continued to lose ground, but the effect on civilian casualties was significant. We tracked the greatest number of alleged deaths and incidents in any given month since the war began two years ago – despite just one likely event in Iraq. Probable deaths from Coalition airstrikes were at similar levels to those reported for Russia during the Spring.

Russian airstrikes also continued to pulverize opposition-held areas in northern and western Syria – with hundreds of non-combatants reported killed. A total of 120 alleged incidents of concern were reported for July alone.

Coalition military developments

Overall, a total of 9,458 airstrikes had cumulatively been carried out in Iraq and 4,751 in Syria to the end of July 2016.

The 13 allies between them dropped 2,411 bombs and missiles against Daesh in July, a 24% per cent decrease in the number of munitions released compared with June.

The US remained the dominant Coalition partner in both Iraq and Syria. Indeed strikes conducted by the UK fell in July, with the RAF carrying out 58 strikes in Iraq (a decrease of 19% on June) and five in Syria (a decrease of 44%.)

The UK’s strikes in Syria were all around Manbij and the so-called Mar’a line. In all but one of these five strikes the RAF used armed drones (Reapers). However, overall reported use of Reapers fell by 60% from June.

After the UK, France remained the next most active Coalition partner. However its activities also declined in Iraq, with 31 strikes declared in July (a fall of 23%). France conducted just two strikes in Syria – both near Raqqa.

Belgium has rejoined the air war – this time in both Iraq and Syria – after taking over from the Netherlands. On July 5th, France reported a joint raid with Belgium in Mosul. But Brussels itself – the least transparent of all Coalition partners – has yet to declare any airstrikes itself since the campaign resumed.

Significant drop: Airwars graph showing the number of UK airstrikes conducted by Reapers, Tornados and Typhoons across June and July 2016

For the first time in 18 months Coalition airstrikes in Syria outweighed those conducted in Iraq. There were 332 strikes in Iraq (a drop of 31% from June) and 352 in Syria (a decrease of 6% from June).

The major Coalition campaign at Manbij – which began on May 21st to liberate the ISIL-occupied town in northern Syria – reached a heavy pace. Some 282 strikes were reported in the vicinity (80% of all declared strikes in Syria).

On July 15th, the Syrian Arab Coalition (aka Syrian Democratic Forces) began moving towards the centre of Manbij, recapturing a “significant amount of the city” and enabling some civilians to escape.

However, the UN warned that the situation in Manbij was deteriorating further, with 30,000 to 40,000 combatants still caught up in the siege.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, efforts were focused on clearing the Daesh-controlled towns of Qayyarah and Sarqat, in preparation for the eventual battle of Mosul.

An RAAF F/A-18A Hornet prepares to depart on a mission to strike a ‘Daesh headquarters compound’ in Mosul, Iraq, from Australia’s main base in the Middle East (Australian MoD)

Coalition civilian casualties

July saw the highest tally of civilian casualty events so far reported in the war. Overall, there were 47 alleged civilian casualty incidents – an increase of 38% from June. A total of 311 to 509 non-combatant deaths were claimed in these events.

Airwars presently assesses 28 of these 47 events as fairly reported: that is with two or more credible sources, and Coalition strikes confirmed in the near vicinity. Between 208 and 387 civilians are presently assessed as likely having been killed in these incidents, compared with between 110 and 180 deaths in June.

A worsening situation: Syria

As already noted, July 2016 saw the highest number of alleged civilian fatalities and events since the air war began in August 2014. In Syria 40 incidents were reported – an increase of 83% from the 19 claimed events we tracked in June. Between 198 and 368 alleged fatalities are presently assessed as being likely by Airwars, most in the vicnity of Manbij.

One likely reason for this sharp rise is a reported loosening of the rules of engagement. The Coalition is now prepared to accept up to 10 non-combatant casualties in any one action, according to reports.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEHu2ZYIDPw

A Coalition airstrike on Manbij, July 11th 2016

On July 19th,in what may be the single greatest loss of life from a Coalition action in the first two years of its war against Daesh, between 78 and 203 civilians were reported killed in a catastrophic event at the village of Tokhar in which victims were shown being buried in mass graves.

Manbij Mother of the World was the first to report the event. It initially put the death toll at 25, which swiftly rose to 56 then 59 civilians, before finally settling at 203 killed.  The Airwars incident report presently names 78 victims.

The US’s northern Syria proxy the SDF said it had supplied the intelligence for the Tokhar strike, though had thought no civilians were present. The SDF also accused local monitoring groups of fabricating civilian casualty claims in order to aid ISIL and discredit Kurdish forces.

In contrast, the US’s former proxy the Free Syrian Army condemned the Coalition for “the horrific massacres committed”. The Assad regime instead claimed French aircraft were responsible, though Paris has declared no strikes in the vicinity.

Bakkar al Ramadan – one of 78 named civilians so far identified by local groups as having died at al Tokhar in a US airstrike on July 19th 2016. Seven members of Mr al Ramadan’s family also reportedly died with him, including six children (via Manbij Tokhar)

For July 18th-19th, the Coalition admitted carrying out strikes on buildings and vehicles at Tokhar, but initially scorned ‘wild’ claims of 173 deaths.

However after an international outcry, the US announced on July 27th that it was launching an investigation. Based on current delays, the results are unlikely to be known until early 2017.

Following the incident at Tokhar Airwars tracked a brief drop in airstrikes around Manbij. However from July 22nd the Coalition campaign picked up pace once again.

The Pentagon also investigated an alleged incident on July 23rd at al Nawaja in which between 10 and 22 civilians were reported killed. Soon after it denied responsibility, concluding that “the JCTF did not conduct any strikes in that geographic location.”

Almost daily: As this Airwars chart demonstrates, while alleged civilian fatalities around Manbij peaked at Tokhar on July 19th, claims occured throughout the month

Another major incident of concern took place on July 28th when at least 28 civilians were killed in a likely Coalition airstrike on the village of al Ghandourra. According to the Syria Newsdesk, the noon strikes hit the main market and the elementary school in the town, which was occupied by so-called ISIL.

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Later that same day the Pentagon confirmed it was opening an investigation into the al Ghandourra incident – the first such immediate action in two years of war. A senior US military official told Airwars that the Coalition’s internal monitoring had already raised concerns – and that the decision to proceed almost immediately to an investigation represented a more pro-active approach to civilian casualty allegations.

Coalition incidents of concern: Iraq

There was a marked decrease in incidents of concern in Iraq for July. Seven events were reported, a 114% drop from the 15 cases we tracked in June.

Of these, Airwars presently assesses just one case as ‘fairly‘ reported:

According to a number of reports, on July 31st alleged night time or dawn Coalition strikes on homes in the vicinity of the Technical Institute and Faculty of Islamic Sciences at the University of Mosul resulted in “nearly 20” civilian fatalities. NRN reported that there were many casualties as a result of “brutal” strikes when nearby bystanders and cars were struck by fragments of destroyed buildings.

New officially confirmed deaths

On July 18th, CENTCOM conceded 14 additional civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, relating to six events between July 2015 and late April 2016. These new admissions bring the official confirmed tally for civilian dead to 55.

In addition to these confirmed fatalities, Airwars estimates that at least 1,507 to 2,301 civilians are likely to have been killed in Coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria since August 2014. This suggests the Coalition is under-reporting civilian deaths by 95 per cent or more.

Longer-term hope for civilians caught up in US wars came on July 1st, when President Obama issued an executive order (alongside an assessment of those killed in covert US drone strikes) on steps to be taken to protect civilians in conflicts.

Russian military actions and civilian casualties

Allegations of civilian casualty events involving Russia in Syria decreased by 11% in July. However, they remain at alarming levels.

In July we tracked 120 events reportedly involving Russian aircraft, against 135 tracked in June.

Due to the volume of alleged Russian incidents, Airwars is still in the process of assessing events from January to the end of July.

Raw estimates claim that between 564 and 633 civilians died in these July alleged events alone – though it will be some time before Airwars is better able to assess these allegations.

Scene of devastation at Ariha, Syria July 13th 2016 after an alleged Russian strike killed at least 12 civilians (Photo via LCCSY)

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Additional research by Kinda Haddad, Latif Habib, Abdulwahab Tahhan, Ziad Freeman, Basile Simon, Christiaan Triebert and Chris Woods

▲ The US Navy issues a rare photo of hardware-packed deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, supporting war against Daesh (via US Navy)

Published

July 2016

Written by

Alex Hopkins

Daesh lost significant ground in June, with the liberation of Fallujah in Iraq and the ongoing battle for Manbij in Syria. However, this led to a steep rise in alleged civilian casualties involving the Coalition in both countries – while in Syria, we saw a quadrupling of the number of civilian casualty events reportedly involving Russian aircraft.

Coalition military developments

Overall, a total of 9,132 airstrikes had been carried out in Iraq and 4,398 in Syria to the end of June 2016.

The 13 allies had between them cumulatively dropped 49,917 bombs and missiles against Daesh, with a 35 per cent rise in the number of munitions released compared with May.

Denmark restarted its air campaign, with the first strikes reported in Iraq on June 24th. Following a vote by parliament, Danish F-16’s will now also be carrying out airstrikes in Syria

On June 27th, Belgium reported it had taken over airstrikes from the Dutch, deploying six of its own F-16s to the Middle East. The Dutch had fought continually for 21-months and were the fourth most active partner in the Coalition after the US, the UK and France – despite their relatively small force.

Graph courtesy of Drone Wars UK

To June 28th, Britain’s MoD had reported 847 airstrikes in Iraq but only 48 in Syria. An analysis of official UK data by Drone Wars UK revealed:

    A huge increase of 85% in British airstrikes in Iraq and Syria was recorded between July and Dec 2015 (249 strikes) and January to June 2016 (464 strikes).
    There has been a significant increase in the use of British armed drones since April. June saw the greatest number of Reaper airstrikes in any one month since the RAF began fielding them in October 2007.
    The UK has used much larger weapons in recent months. On June 26th, the RAF airdropped Stormshadow cruise missiles for the first time against Daesh in Iraq. There has also been increased use of both the 1,000 lb Enhanced Paveway II and 2,000 lb Paveway III bombs.

UK Tornados used huge Stormshadow missiles for the first time against Daesh on June 26th, striking a large concrete bunker being used as a weapons facility in western Iraq.

Coalition actions in Iraq and Syria for June 2016

There were 482 Coalition airstrikes in Iraq in June – a small decrease (4%) from the 504 airstrikes carried out in May.

On June 26th it was announced that the city of Fallujah, which had fallen to Daesh in January 2014, had been liberated. Two days later Iraqi forces retook remaining pockets of Daesh resistance in the city’s western outskirts.

However, the United Nations warned of a potential humanitarian disaster, with up 30,000 civilians fleeing the city.

June saw the greatest number of Coalition actions yet reported in Syria during the 23-month war, with 375 airstrikes declared. This was an increase of 110% from May (178 strikes).

68% of these strikes were near Manbij, where a major offensive to retake the city began on May 21st by US proxies the Syrian Arab Coalition (or Syrian Democratic Forces), supported by Coalition airstrikes.

On June 30th, the Coalition reported it had carried out 44 airstrikes alone that week around Manbij, and that the Syrian Arab Coalition had gained a crucial foothold in the southern part of the city – though Daesh continued to use snipers, tunnels, booby traps and human shields, while maintaining control of vital grain silos and administrative buildings.

But in Deir Ezzor, there were set backs with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting on June 29th that the New Syria Army had been driven out of the governorate and had failed to recapture the key Iraqi border town of Al-Bukamal.

Australian armaments personnel assemble and load weapons, June 2016 (image via CJTF OIR)

Coalition civilian casualties

In both Iraq and Syria, there was a steep rise in casualty events allegedly involving Coalition aircraft in June. Overall, there were 34 alleged civilian casualty incidents – an increase of 79% from May, when 19 were reported. A total of 229 to 335 non-combatant deaths were claimed.

Airwars presently assesses 16 of these 34 events as fairly reported: that is with two or more credible sources, and Coalition strikes confirmed in the near vicinity. Between 110 and 180 civilians are presently assessed as likely having been killed in these incidents, compared with between 84 and 93 deaths in May.

Coalition incidents of concern: Syria

The greatest rise in alleged casualty events was seen in Syria, where 19 incidents were reported – an increase of 72% from the 11 claimsed events tracked in May.

June 2016 saw the highest number of alleged civilian deaths to date from Coalition actions in Syria. Between 58 and 75 alleged fatalities are presently assessed as being likely by Airwars, compared with between 38 and 41 deaths in May.

Of the 19 claimed incidents in Syria, 15 (78%) were around Manbij. We have graded nine of these as fairly reported, and estimate that between 48 and 64 civilians were killed in these incidents.

Major casualty incidents of concern attributed to Coalition aircraft around Manbij included:

On June 3rd, local groups named 22 victims including 13 to 15 children and six women killed in a ‘Coalition strike’ on the village of Ojkana, near Manbij. Both the Shaam News Network and the Syrian Press Center attributed the deaths to the US-led Coalition, while the Syrian Revolution Network named multiple victims across three families

Reported child victims of a Coalition strike near Manbij June 3 2016 (via Manbij Mother of All the World)

On June 11th, ten civilians from the same family were reported killed in an alleged Coalition strike on the village of Al Hadhad, near Manbij, as fierce fighting continued to evict so-called Islamic State forces from the area. The dead family was named by Manbij Mother of All the World as that of Mahmoud al Ahmad al Khattaf.

ريف حلب #منبجاستشهاد 10 اشخاص من عائلة واحد نتيجة قصف طيران التحالف الدولي قرية الهدهد جميع الضحايا نازحين من قرية الخطاف

— Syrian Revolution Network شبكة الثورة السورية (@RevolutionSyria) June 11, 2016

A Tweet from Syrian Revolution reports the death of 10 people from the same family in Manbij on June 11th

On June 13th, a reported Coalition airstrike on the agricultural secondary school in Manbij – being used as a temporary prison by so called Islamic State – led to the deaths of between 8 and 20 civilian captives according to local reports. Al Araby al Jadid placed the death toll much higher at 30, with 50 injured – though this included Daesh fighters.

Coalition incidents of concern: Iraq

There was also a significant increase in incidents of concern in Iraq, where 15 events were reported, an 87% rise from the eight cases we tracked in May.

Between 52 and 104 civilian fatalities in Iraq  are presently assessed as likely by Airwars in June 2016, compared with between 46 and 52 likely deaths in May.

Major incidents of concern were reported around Mosul and Fallujah:

On June 1st, ten to 40 civilians were reported killed and 13 to 36 injured following alleged Coalition airstrikes in west Mosul. Mosul Eye offered a detailed description of affected neighbourhoods, while NRN said that Coalition aircraft targeted houses used by Daesh, killing terrorists but also civilians.

On June 8th, multiple civilians were reported killed and injured in alleged Coalition airstrikes on the July 17th district of Mosul. According to Mosul Eye, the strikes on a Wednesday night took place at prayer time near a mosque in the Almoghait area – particularly busy during Ramadan. There was a possibility of British involvement, with the UK reporting that “In northern Iraq, another Typhoon mission successfully attacked a Daesh-held building east of Mosul, whilst a Reaper used a GBU-12 bomb to demolish a building where another coalition surveillance aircraft had observed terrorists unloading supplies.”

Reported Coalition strike on Mosul June 8th which allegedly caused ‘dozens’ of civilian casualties (via Iraqi Revolution)

And on June 15th, local sources reported that the Coalition struck the Hasi area of Fallujah, leading to the death of six families, two of whom were killed while trying to leave the city. Al Fallujah Online said 10 people died, including four women and three children, and that 13 others were wounded including five children and four women. Again there was the possibility of UK involvement in the reported event, with the MoD reporting that Typhoons carried out “successful attacks” over Fallujah.

Casualties in a medical facility following alleged Coalition strikes on Fallujah, June 15th (via Al FallujahNews)

Still unclear is how many civilians may have died in two massive Coalition and Iraq government air assaults on Daesh convoys escaping Fallujah on June 28th and June 30th. Many vehicles were destroyed, with the Coalition estimating that its own aircraft killed at least 348 enemy fighters. But there are credible reports the convoys also included the families of Daesh fighters. As USA Today reported of the second incident “About 50 people, including women and children, fled the vehicles. When the women and children were spotted, the coalition ceased its strikes.” At least one dead child was spotted by Bellingcat in an Iraqi government propaganda video relating to the strikes.

Russian military actions and civilian casualties

Following the Syrian cease fire and Russia’s announcement of a partial drawdown on March 15th, we saw an immediate 75% reduction in allegations of civilian casualty events involving Russia in Syria, and by April we were recording similar numbers of allegations against Russia and the Coalition (in Iraq and Syria).

However that trend reversed in late May, with reported Russian strikes and civilian casualty claims once more escalating. We tracked 36 incidents in May and 135 in June – a fourfold rise.

Airwars tracking of alleged Russian civilian casualty events showed a fourfold rise in June

Due to the volume of alleged Russian incidents, Airwars is still in the process of assessing events from January to the end of June.

Raw estimates claim that between 595 and 648 civilians died in these June events, while 153 to 191 people were claimed killed in May – though it will be some time before Airwars is better able to assess these allegations.

This increased Russian involvement in Syria means it is often challenging to determine which parties were responsible for attacks – with contested reports sometimes blaming Russia, the Assad regime and the Coalition.

 

Additional research by Kinda Haddad, Latif Habib, Basile Simon, Christiaan Triebert and Chris Woods

 

▲ A picture of a recent night time artillery engagement from Kara Soar base, supporting Iraqi troops (via US Army)

Published

June 2016

Written by

Alex Hopkins

Airwars monthly reports on international airstrikes and alleged civilian casualties across both Iraq and Syria will resume for June . Here we present our summary findings for December 2015 to May 2016.

Major Coalition military developments

From December 1st 2015 to the end of May 2016, there were 4,087 reported Coalition airstrikes against Daesh: a total of 3,010 in Iraq and 1,077 in Syria.

The 13 allies had between them cumulatively dropped 46,615 bombs and missiles against Daesh to the end of May 2016. Weapon releases were down 5% between December and May compared with the previous six months.

In other key developments:

    January 2016 was the most intense month of bombing in Iraq to date, with 540 airstrikes reported carried out by the Coalition.
    January also saw Daesh driven out of the city of Ramadi after a months-long offensive by Iraqi government forces. Nearly 800 non-combatants were reported killed in airstrikes, executions and clashes in and around the city during the campaign.
    On February 15th, Canada ceased kinetic operations in Iraq and Syria. Since their first sortie on October 30th 2014, Canada’s CF-188 Hornets had carried out 251 airstrikes (246 in Iraq and just 5 in Syria).
    Following terror attacks in Brussels on March 22nd, Belgium confirmed plans to mount renewed airstrikes on Daesh targets, in both Iraq and Syria. Airwars has since submitted a report to the Belgian parliament raising transparency concerns.
    An offensive by the Iraqi army and militias to retake areas around Mosul began in late March but was initially repelled. The battle, with heavy air support from the Coalition, is still underway.
    In May, bolstered by US airstrikes, the Iraqi Security Forces retook the small but key western desert town of Rutba from Daesh after a two-day battle.
    At the end of May, the Coalition began the push to retake Fallujah from ISIS – though the United Nations warned that 50,000 or more civilians were still trapped in the city.

US remains dominant partner

Airstrikes by the US in both Iraq and Syria continued significantly to outweigh those conducted by Coalition allies. As of May 30th, CENTCOM had reported a total of 5,859 US strikes in Iraq since August 2014 (68 per cent of all Coalition strikes there.) The UK was the next most active partner in Iraq, followed by France and the Netherlands.

There was also a marginal 1% drop in Coalition airstrikes in Iraq from December 2015 to May 2016 (3,010) compared with the previous six month period.

In Syria there were 1,056 Coalition airstrikes conducted from December 2015 to May 2016 (a 16% drop on the previous six months.) According to official data, only 79 of these strikes (7.5%) were by the US’s declared allies: France, the UK, Canada, Australia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

On 25 May, the UK reported its first airstrikes against Daesh in Syria in a month, with targets hit near Aleppo and Dayr ez Zawr. Since a December 2nd 2015 parliamentary vote on UK airstrikes in Syria, the RAF had only conducted 44 Syrian airstrikes to June 1st according to MoD data. Over the same period the UK conducted more than 250 airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq.

Coalition civilian casualties

Between December and May, in both Iraq and Syria there was a marked increase in the number of alleged casualty incidents and civilian deaths attributed to Coalition actions. While there were over three times as many alleged non-combatant deaths in Iraq as in Syria, both countries saw an alarming increase in the number of reported Coalition casualty events.

Across the six months, an overall total of 1,110 to 1,558 civilian non-combatant fatalities were alleged from 145 separate claimed Coalition incidents in both Iraq and Syria, according to Airwars tracking.

Confirmed deaths

The Coalition has so far confirmed only six civilian casualty events and one friendly fire incident for December to May, all from US military actions. These reportedly killed 10 civilians and 9 or more Iraq Army troops.

In a previously unknown casualty event, one civilian was confirmed killed during a US airstrike against a high value target in Raqqa, Syria on December 10th 2015.

A family of five was killed in a US airstrike on the Albothiab Island area of Ramadi, Iraq on December 12th.

At least nine Iraq Army soldiers including an officer were killed – and 32 or more injured – when Coalition aircraft providing close air support (CAS) accidentally struck a forward command post of Brigade Headquarters 55, in the Nuaimiya area south of Fallujah, Iraq on December 18th.

One civilian was killed during a US airstrike at Tishreen near Manbij, Syria on December 24th.

At least one civilian, a woman, was killed in a confrmed Coaltion airstrike on an ISIL-controlled bank in central Mosul, Iraq on January 11th. The attack was aimed at destroying millions of dollars of terror cash. CNN later reported the US had been prepared to accept up to 50 civilian casualties in the attack.

Civilian victim of a Coalition strike on January 11 2016, which targeted millions of dollars in a Daesh-controlled bank (via NRN News)

In a previously unknown casualty event, CENTCOM confirmed on April 22nd 2016 that one civilian was killed during a US airstrike at Al Ghazili near Ayn Isa, Syria on February 2nd.

And three weeks after an incident on April 5th, the US revealed that a strike on an ‘ISIL finance emir’ had  killed at least one civilian, a woman in Mosul, Iraq.

Overall CENTCOM has informed Airwars that, to May 20th 2016, the Coalition had provisionally investigated 182 alleged casualty incidents in total, of which it deemed 30 cases to be credible. Five confirmed cases have yet to be publicly reported – with an average delay of six months between a civilian death occuring and public confirmation by the Coalition.

CENTCOM’s investigations tally also represents just 40% of the 436 known civilian casualty allegations tracked by Airwars to May 31st.

Some 41 civilian deaths in total have now been admitted by the Coalition  – all the result of US actions. Despite more than 3,000 airstrikes by the US’s twelve allies in Iraq and Syria, no other Coalition partner has so far admitted causing any civilian casualties.

Likely additional casualty events in Iraq 

Along with the five civilian fatality events admitted by the US, Airwars has recorded 71 further ‘Fair’ incidents for December to May – 39 in Iraq and 32 in Syria. We presently estimate an additional 487 to 785 civilians died in these likely Coalition actions.

An event is graded as fair where two or more credible sources have reported an incident, and where Coalition strikes are confirmed in the vicinity on that date.

If correct, Airwars data suggests the Coalition may be underreporting civilian deaths by more than 95 per cent.

It is our provisional view at Airwars that between 290 and 511 civilians died in 39 events in Iraq, in addition to the seven recent deaths there admitted by the US.

On January 18th, 11 civilians were reported killed and 6 others wounded after Coalition aircraft allegedly targeted cars in the Exhibitions area east of Mosul. The National Iraqi News Agency reported residents of the city’s exhibition area saying that casualties occurred when aircraft fired on vehicles, while Al Araby said it was unclear whether whether the bombing has inflicted casualties on Daesh.

On February 25th, at least 13 civilians from ‘ISIS families’ – including women and children – were alleged killed when their bus was reportedly bombed between Qayarrah and Shura south of Mosul as it was trying to cross the Iraqi-syrian border, according to local sources. Reports said the terrorist group had been evacuating family members from Mosul to Syria in anticipation of a government assault.

The greatest number of claimed civilian deaths for any one incident so far in the 22-month air war was reported in Mosul on March 19th. According to multiple reports at least 25 non-combatants died along with 40 or more Daesh fighters, in a major daytime Coalition air raid on Mosul University. A single source report claimed as many as 90 students were additionally killed in the attack, with 155 people seriously injured. CENTCOM later announced it was investigating the allegations.

One of a number of major Coalition airstrikes to target central Mosul on March 19th (via Daesh propaganda film)

Rise of incidents in Syria

Despite Coalition strikes decreasing in Syria compared to the previous six months, Airwars tracked an alarming rise in reported civilian fatalities.

From December 1st 2015 to May 31st 2016, there were 32 reported incidents of concern in Syria which we graded as ‘Fair.’ It is our provisional view at Airwars that between 197 and 274 civilians died in these events – a 38 per cent rise in likely civilian deaths above the previous six months.

These increased casualty figures may reflect less restrictive rules of engagement introduced by the Coalition – though officials have insisted these have not led to more civilian deaths.

Ali Sleiman Al Abdallah and his children, killed in a reported Coalition strike December 7th 2015 (via Hassakah Youth Union)

On December 7th 2015, in one of the worst mass casualty events credibly attributed to the Coalition as many as 47 civilians were reported killed and 17 injured in an alleged US Apache helicopter and fast jet attack on the village of al Khan near al Hawl. Locals were involved in an altercation with Islamic State militants according to the McClatchy news agency, with Coalition aircraft attacking a convoy of reinforcements as it entered the village.According to the Global Post, the airstrikes took place in the early hours of December 7th. CENTCOM later announced it was assessing the claims, though has yet to declare its findings. .

On January 7th-8th, eight children and three women were widely reported killed in what most sources claimed to be a Coalition airstrike on Khuzaymah, Al Raqqah governorate.  While Raqqah is Being Slaughtered and Radio Alkul did not attribute the attack, the Syrian Observatory blamed the Coalition.

Nine of the 13 reported incidents in Syria for February were clustered around the city of al Shadadi, recently captured by Kurdish forces with direct air support from the Coalition. A CENTCOM spokesman told Airwars that only two of these reported incidents were under investigation.

Proxy ground forces advanced on so-called Islamic State on a number of fronts in May, heavily supported by Coalition air power. The month also saw the highest number of alleged civilian deaths to date from Coalition actions. Forty out of 90 alleged fatalities are presently assessed as likely by Airwars.

On May 20th, up to ten civilians were reported killed in an alleged Coalition evening strike at Al Arshaf village on the outskirts of Ekhitrin town, in the northern Aleppo countryside.

And on 31st May – 1 June,  as many as 15 civilians including at least three children reportedly died in Coalition airstrikes in support of a major Kurdish ground offensive against Daesh near Manbij. Three sources alleged that the Coalition was responsible. When approached by the Independent, a Coalition spokesperson said they were ‘unaware’ of any civilian casualty allegations, despite widespread media coverage.

Al Ghadd TV reports on civilian fatalities  around Manbij, June 1st 2016

Major Russian military developments

Russia’s September 2015 intervention in Syria radically changed the situation for both civilians and combatants on the ground.

Russia’s initial focus was not as it claimed so-called Islamic State, but rebel groups in northern and western Syria. Backed by heavy Russian airpower, Assad regime forces were able to break out of their beseiged strongholds, and launch major offensives against rebel groups. Airwars mapping of likely civilian deaths from Russian airstrikes to December 31st shows most were far from ISIL’s strongholds.

Airwars mapping of likely civilian fatalities from Russian strikes to December 31st shows most actions were focused away from Islamic State-held areas

Russian airstrikes and civilian casualty allegations peaked in February 2016, with 166 claimed civilian casualty events that month attributed to Moscow. However, the announcement of a key Syrian ceasefire at the end of that month saw a major reduction in Russian activity. In addition, on March 14th Russia announced it would partially withdraw its forces from Syria.

Russia’s focus then shifted briefly to targeting Daesh in central and eastern Syria. On March 27th, Assad regime ground forces aided by Russian airpower recaptured the historic city of Palmyra, ending 10 months of occupation following a three week ground offensive. But Russia also continued to heavily target non-ISIL forces and civilian areas – particularly in and around Aleppo.

Russian Civilian Casualties

For December 1st 2015 to May 31st 2016, Airwars has tracked 630 alleged civilian casualty events in Syria attributed to international airpower. Of these, 59 claimed incidents were attributed to the Coalition (9%), while 571 events (91%) were attributed to Russia.

A total of 2,792 to 3,451 non-combatants were allegedly killed by Russia over six months in these 571 claimed events. This is likely to be a significant over-estimate. As Airwars reported in A Reckless Disregard for Human Lives, in the first three months of Russian airstrikes in Syria, only 60 per cent of alleged civilian fatalities were likely to have resulted from Moscow’s actions. Russia still continues to insist it has killed no civilians in its air campaign in Syria.

In total, 782 alleged civilian casualty events had been attributed to Russia from September 30th 2015 to May 31st 2016. Per month, this is approximately five times the number of alleged Coalition events claimed across Syria and Iraq. With so many Russia allegations, Airwars has so far only been able to publish strike and assessment data to December 31st 2015. Our assessment of January 2016 will publish shortly.

Among the worst incidents so far assessed, between 61 and 90 civilians were killed in airstrikes on Khusham on January 23rd – with at least 40 others injured. Almost all local sources blamed Russia for the attack on civilian neighbourhoods.

Tracking of such allegations in Syria can provide a helpful indicator of casualty trends and broader military activity. Civilian casualty allegations fell by more than 70 per cent in March for example, following the Syrian ceasefire and Russia’s partial drawdown.By April, Airwars was recording similar numbers of allegations against Russia and the Coalition (in Iraq and Syria.) However that trend reversed in late May, with reported Russian strikes and civilian casualty claims once more escalating.

▲ A picture shows the aid team trying to remove the casualties from the incident location where seven civilians were reported killed and 23 injured in two alleged Coalition raids on May 24th,2016.