News & Investigations

News & Investigations

Published

August 7, 2020

Written by

Mohammed al Jumaily

A protracted conflict against the terror group ISIS has left much of Iraq in ruins - though there are signs of rebirth.

On the fateful evening of August 7th 2014, then-US President Barack Obama gave a live address to the nation announcing the beginning of military actions in Iraq against so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS and Daesh), ushering in a new era of US involvement. The following day, US Navy F-18 Hornet fighters launched the first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. Six years on, and 14,700 international air and artillery strikes later as well as thousands more by Iraq government forces, Iraqis are still reeling from the war against ISIS and its aftermath.

The conflict itself displaced over five million Iraqis and left schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure in affected provinces across northern and central Iraq in utter ruin. While statistics on the number of civilians who perished overall during the war against ISIS varies, Iraq Body Count estimates that 67,376 civilians were killed between January 2014 and December 2017. According to the World Bank, the total cost of the conflict amounts to a staggering 124 trillion Iraqi Dinars ($107 billion), which is equivalent to 73% of the country’s entire GDP in 2013.

It is also estimated that 138,051 residential buildings and units were damaged, half of which were destroyed beyond repair in Iraq during the long war on ISIS. Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has estimated that the conflict left 6.2 million people in need of targeted humanitarian assistance.

Beyond the cold statistics showing the impact of war on an already beleaguered country, personal testimonies of Iraqis themselves give a more visceral idea of life under ISIS, and the aftermath of the military campaign. They also speak to the ongoing challenges that Iraqis living in formerly ISIS-occupied areas continue to face six years on.

Life under ISIS

By the time the US began its military campaign in Iraq, so-called Islamic State had already seized significant territories in northern and western parts of the country including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city – plunging the nation into its most serious crisis since the US-British invasion in 2003.

The announcement of a US air campaign came shortly after ISIS’s genocidal campaign on the Yazidi community in Sinjar and its surrounding areas in Nineveh province had begun – and almost two months after ISIS’s notorious massacre [Warning: GRAPHIC] of up to 1,700 unarmed Iraqi military cadets in Camp Speicher. The next three years would see the lives of millions of people change radically. The terror group’s occupation of these territories ravaged communities and decimated the social fabric of many of the cities under the group’s rule. Locals living in areas under ISIS occupation recount wanton acts of brutality by the group, in a bid to enforce their control and dominance.

Khalid al-Rawi, a musician and community activist in Mosul [see main picture], describes the state of fear instilled by the group during their occupation of Iraq’s second city. “I know many musicians who destroyed their instruments [out of fear of being caught] or would go far away in order to play a bit of music… If anyone played music openly, they could have been killed, but musicians wouldn’t have dared to do this”, Khalid recalled to Airwars this week. “People were killed for the smallest reasons by them [ISIS] – I was one of the people who if they caught me, I would have been killed instantly.”

Ziad Ghanim Sha’ban, a lawyer from Tikrit in Salahuddin province, paints a similar picture of violence and fear under ISIS, particularly when it came to religious and ethnic coexistence. “Iraqi society, as you know, is like a mosaic [of different ethnic and religious groups],” explains Ziad. “We have Kurds, we have Sunnis with Shia parents and Shias with Sunni parents, as well as Turkmen in our community – we are one country, but when ISIS came, this changed. They rejected and fought this vigorously, and killed anyone promoting this [coexistence] – this instilled great fear in society and many families were torn from the community.”

Ziad goes on to recall how some husbands and wives who had spouses from southern Iraq – where the population is predominantly Shia Muslim – divorced and ran away to avoid persecution by the group.

War on ISIS and the legacy of the International Coalition

Following a series of gains made by ISIS throughout 2014 that saw the terror group control up to a fifth of Iraq’s territory and 6.3 million people (19% of the population), the Iraqi Government, with the support of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) consisting of numerous armed groups, as well as international allies led by the United States, began pushing back against ISIS, slowly reclaiming territory until the group’s territorial defeat in December 2017.

The role played by the US-led Coalition was instrumental in eventually defeating ISIS. The US-led alliance has declared 14,771 air and artillery strikes in Iraq since its inception, providing air cover for Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and decimating ISIS positions in northern and western Iraq. Today the group exists only on the margins of Iraq, harried by ISF and Coalition attacks. However, the human and material cost of this campaign has been immense – and experienced almost exclusively by Iraqis themselves.

ISIS killed and injured many thousands of civilians during its occupation, and many more died in ISF actions. Using local sources, Airwars has also to date tracked 895 separate civilian harm allegations against the International Coalition in Iraq. According to local reports, between 9,801 and 14,037 civilians were claimed killed in these incidents and up to 12,248 others injured. The US-led alliance itself has so far publicly admitted 688 deaths from its actions in Iraq.

Beyond this, the military campaign has left vast swathes of the country in ruins, making it almost impossible for hundreds of thousands of civilians – still displaced by the conflict – to return to their homes.

Khalid recalls a number of instances where families were caught up in airstrikes targeting ISIS militants: “I have a friend whose family, including uncles and aunts, were living in the same house. From what was explained to me, there was one ISIS member on the roof of the house so an International Coalition missile struck the building, killing 13 or 14 members of that family.”

Ziad also recounts the tragic story of his younger brother, who was killed by what he says was an International Coalition airstrike in Tikrit. “I have my brother, a child, named Muhanad aged only 11 years old, who was injured in an airstrike and died immediately and we have still, to this day, not received any compensation or acknowledgement from the Coalition.”

In almost all cases, those interviewed say that very few, if anyone, receives any form of acknowledgement or compensation from the Iraqi Government or from the International Coalition. “The reality is that as a lawyer, as part of a team of lawyers, we submitted more than a hundred complaints against Coalition forces, calling for compensation…In the end we didn’t even receive 5% of the compensation we were entitled to,” Ziad told Airwars.

Reconstruction and Reconciliation

Six years on from the beginning of the International Coalition’s own campaign against ISIS, the societal impact of the group’s occupation and the conflict that ensued has been transformative, and will likely remain with Iraqis for decades. In many parts of the country that were under ISIS rule, communities remain divided, and little effort has been made by central and local governments to bring people together. In the absence of government action, locals have taken it upon themselves to repair the social fabric of their communities, in the days following liberation from ISIS.

Khalid al-Rawi points out that despite the immense challenges faced by the people of Mosul and the difficulties of the last few years, the re-emergence of a vibrant civil society in the city has been an unexpected yet significant silver lining in the post-ISIS years. “A number of initiatives have emerged aimed at promoting reconciliation, which I myself have taken part in. For example, we went to Hamdaniya, [a predominantly Assyrian district, with a significant Christian population] and cleaned and helped rebuild churches; and a number of young people helped clean another church in Mosul.”

He also says that the city’s experience under ISIS rule has changed many people’s attitudes about music and the arts, which were previously, perhaps, looked down upon by many in more conservative parts of the city.

“There is a positive I see [from this experience], a new page has been turned for the youth of this community – a revolution has occurred….from an artistic perspective, before people [used to say to me] music is wrong and haram and if you learn music it means you work in a bar. Now that is not the case, there has been a lot more acceptance after liberation from ISIS.”

Music is back to Mosul.Mosul produced music for centuries and now it is all over the place again.Let's play music… #Mosul2019 #ReviveThespiritOfMosul pic.twitter.com/dTqIrTuDlq

— Mosul Eye عين الموصل (@MosulEye) October 24, 2019

However, Ziad paints a bleaker image of the societal impact of ISIS rule and the subsequent fighting that emerged. In contrast to Mosul’s civic revival, many in Tikrit are afraid to engage in civic activities, he says. “Since the violence we saw in Hawijah and Tikrit in 2013 against protesters and by ISIS during their rule, activists have not emerged in our areas because they saw the executions that would take place if they did come out… Even when protests emerged in Baghdad and the south [in 2019 and 2020], there were no protests in Salahuddin, Anbar, Hawijah and Mosul because [people] knew they could be killed,” explains Ziad.

In terms of reconstruction, efforts by the Government have often seemed futile, with progress slow and, in many cases, non-existent. Despite liberation from ISIS, residents of Anbar, Salahuddin and Nineveh provinces face an uphill task in rebuilding their cities and communities, made even more difficult by government incompetence and widespread corruption.

Abdulrahman Mohammad, a businessman and community leader in Fallujah, who fled his hometown after the arrival of ISIS back in 2014, explains that upon returning to his city after three years, he found a city in ruins and a devastated local economy. “When we came back after ISIS, everything we had was lost. Our factories were destroyed. In the end, the economy of the province [of Anbar] had halted,” explains Abdulrahman. “Work is not given to anyone except to a specific group [of people] through patronage networks,” he elaborates.

“Anbar had 30 very large cement factories, each employing 500 people. To this day, these factories remain damaged and unusable,” laments Abdulrahman, adding that “Efforts to create jobs by the government are non-existent. None.”

The situation in other towns such as Sinjar in Nineveh, and Baiji in Salahuddin, is even more dire. According to the World Bank, 70% of housing assets in Sinjar were damaged, while in Baiji, 94% of residential buildings were damaged.

As Iraq now enters its seventh year following the beginning of the war against ISIS, many Iraqis have little faith in government efforts to rebuild their cities, and are instead forced to put up with the devastation wrought upon them by ISIS and years of war. While the post-ISIS period has brought security to the liberated provinces of Iraq – and has also created a space for local civil activism to flourish in certain areas – many know that there is still a long way to go before the majority can truly taste the fruits of liberation from ISIS.

▲ Musician Khalid Al-Rawi trained with his friends on the Oud secretly under ISIS. Once the city was liberated, he took to Mosul's streets spreading music and arts. This photo was taken near the central library of Mosul University during Mosul Eye's Save The Book campaign in August 2017.  Published with kind permission of Ali Y. Al-Baroodi

Published

July 9, 2020

Written by

Airwars Staff

Killing of Iranian commander by US drone strike represents 'not just a slippery slope. It is a cliff', warns Special Rapporteur

The US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in Baghdad in January 2020, was unlawful on several counts, according to a new report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council by its expert on extrajudicial killings.

Dr Agnes Callamard, the current UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, asserts in her latest report that Soleimani’s controversial assassination by a US drone strike on Baghdad International Airport on January 3rd 2020 had violated international law in several ways.

Noting that the US drone strike had also killed several Iraqi military personnel, Dr Callamard notes that “By killing General Soleimani on Iraqi soil without first obtaining Iraq’s consent, the US violated the territorial integrity of Iraq.”

The Special Rapporteur also argues that by failing to demonstrate that Soleimani represented an imminent threat to the United States – and instead focusing on his past actions dating back to 2006 – that his killing “would be unlawful under jus ad bellum“, the criteria by which a state may engage in war.

In the bluntest condemnation yet of the Trump Administration’s killing of Iran’s leading military commander, Dr Callamard argues that “the targeted killing of General Soleimani, coming in the wake of 20 years of distortions of international law, and repeated massive violations of humanitarian law, is not just a slippery slope. It is a cliff.”

She also warns that the killing of Iran’s top general may see other nations exploit the US’s justification for the assassination: “The international community must now confront the very real prospect that States may opt to ‘strategically’ eliminate high ranking military officials outside the context of a ‘known’ war, and seek to justify the killing on the grounds of the target’s classification as a ‘terrorist’ who posed a potential future threat.”

Speaking to Airwars from Geneva ahead of her presentation to the UNHRC, Dr Callamard described the US killing of General Soleimani as “a significant escalation in the use of armed drones, and in the use of extraterritorial force. Until now, drones have focused on terrorism and on counterterrorism responses. Here we’re seeing the displacement of a counterterrorism strategy onto State officials.” She described the Trump administration’s justification of the assassination of a senior Iranian government official as “a distortion of self defence.”

Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s highest ranked military commander, was assassinated in a US drone strike near Baghdad on January 3rd 2020 (via @IRaqiRev).

‘The second drone age’

Dr Callamard’s denouncement of the US’s killing of Qasem Soleimani marks the latest in almost 20 years of concerns raised by United Nations experts on the use of armed drones for targeted assassinations. In 2002, following the killing of five al Qaeda suspects in Yemen by the CIA, then-rapporteur Asma Jahangir warned for example that the attack constituted “a clear case of extrajudicial killing”.

UN reports since then have tended to focus on controversial drone campaigns outside the hot battlefield, in countries including Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine’s West Bank and Gaza Strip.

With her new report, delivered to the UNHRC on July 9th, Dr Callamard seeks to bring the discussion on armed drone use up to date, noting that “the world has entered what has been called the ‘second drone age’ with a now vast array of State and non-State actors deploying ever more advanced drone technologies, making their use a major and fast becoming international security issue.” The term ‘second drone age’ was originally coined by Airwars director Chris Woods, to reflect a growing wave of armed drone proliferation among state and non-state actors.

My latest report to the UN #HRC44 focus on targeted killings by armed drones: https://t.co/qLsqubaMpA The world has entered a “second drone age”, in which State and non-State actors are deploying ever more advanced drone technologies, a major international, security issue.

— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) July 8, 2020

 

As Dr Callamard and her team write: “The present report seeks to update previous findings. It interrogates the reasons for drones’ proliferation and the legal implications of their promises; questions the legal bases upon which their use is founded and legitimized; and identifies the mechanisms and institutions (or lack thereof) to regulate drones’ use and respond to targeted killings. The report shows that drones are a lightning rod for key questions about protection of the right to life in conflicts, asymmetrical warfare, counter-terrorism operations, and so-called peace situations.”

Many of the conflicts monitored by Airwars are referenced by Dr Callamard.

    In Iraq, she notes that non state actors including ISIS deployed armed drones, sometimes to devastating effect. “In 2017 in Mosul, Iraq, for example, within a 24-hour period ‘there were no less than 82 drones of all shapes and sizes’ striking at Iraqi, Kurdish, US, and French forces.” In Libya, the Special Rapporteur asserts that “The Haftar Armed Forces carried out over 600 drone strikes against opposition targets resulting allegedly in massive civilian casualties, including, in August 2019, against a migrant detention center.” Callamard notes that a ‘nations unwilling or unable to act’ defence – first used by George W Bush’s administration to justify drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere – had been employed by several nations, including Turkey and Israel, to justify attacks in Syria. The UN Special Rapporteur also cautions that as more States acquire armed drones, their use domestically has increased: “Turkey has reportedly used drones domestically against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), while Nigeria first confirmed attack was carried out against a Boko Haram logistics base in 2016. In 2015 Pakistan allegedly used its armed drones for the very first time in an operation to kill three ‘high profile terrorists.’ Iraq has similarly purchased drones to carry out strikes against ISIS in Anbar province in 2016.” Finally, Dr Callamard warns that non-State actors including terrorist groups increasingly have access to remotely piloted technologies – noting that “At least 20 armed non-State actors have reportedly obtained armed and unarmed drone systems.”

“Drones are now the weapon of choice for many countries. They are claimed to be both surgical and to save lives – though we have insufficient evidence to conclude either,” Dr Callamard told Airwars. “Drones may save the lives of ‘our’ soldiers – but on the ground is another matter.”

Civilian harm concerns

The UN Special Rapporteur’s latest report highlights concerns about ongoing risks to civilians from armed drone use. Citing multiple studies, she writes that “even when a drone (eventually) strikes its intended target, accurately and ‘successfully’, the evidence shows that frequently many more people die, sometimes because of multiple strikes.”

Callamard also cautions that “Civilian harm caused by armed drone strikes extends far beyond killings, with many more wounded. While the consequences of both armed and non-combat drones remain to be systematically studied, evidence shows that the populations living under ‘drones’ persistent stare and noise experience generalized threat and daily terror’.”

The UN’s expert on extrajudicial killings additionally notes the key role drones play in helping militaries to determine likely civilian harm: “Without on-the-ground, post-strike assessment, authorities rely on pre- and post-strike drone-video feeds to detect civilian casualties leaving potentially significant numbers of civilian casualties, including of those misidentified as ‘enemies’, undiscovered. Studies showed that in Syria and Iraq the initial military estimates missed 57% of casualties.”

The Special Rapporteur does however point out that civilian harm can be reduced by militaries, “through stronger coordination, improved data analysis, better training of drones’ operators, and systematic evaluation of strikes.”

▲ Aftermath of US drone strike on Baghdad International Airport in January 2020 which assassinated Iranian General Qasem Soleimani (via Arab48).

Published

July 7, 2020

Written by

Laurie Treffers

Header Image

Archive image of munitions being loaded onto a Dutch F-16, during the war against ISIS (via Defensie).

Ministry of Defence says it is revising current civilian harm reporting procedures

The Dutch Minister of Defence, Ank Bijleveld, has reported to Parliament on the latest progress made by the Government in improving transparency regarding civilian harm as a result of Dutch military actions. Coupled with other steps taken in the months after the Hawijah scandal, the Netherlands appears slowly to be shedding its reputation as one of the least transparent members of the international Coalition fighting so-called Islamic State.

In her June 29th letter to Parliament, the Minister laid out a number of changes which she claimed would improve both transparency and accountability. The letter followed on from a fourth parliamentary debate on May 14th on the Hawijah case. Back in October 2019, it was revealed that the Dutch military had been responsible for a 2015 airstrike in Iraq, which had led to the deaths of an estimated 70 civilians. The Government had then withheld that fact from the public for more than four years.

An important topic during the fourth debate was the April 21st release of key US military documents on the Hawijah incident. The US Department of Defense had provided those previously classified documents to Dutch media, after a judicial procedure following an unanswered Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Four months earlier, Minister Bijleveld had filed a request with her US counterpart Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly to share the documents, including the American DoD’s own investigation into Hawijah. She received a negative response to that request on February 28th. However, MPs say they found it difficult to understand why the Minister was not given permission to share the documents, when they were publicly released to the press just two months later.

The contents of those documents revealed that US officials had been aware that an airstrike on the targeted ISIS IED factory in Hawijah could possibly present a significant risk to civilians. CIA informants had, for example, warned the Coalition about civilians living in the area. Furthermore, while Minister Bijleveld has continuously stated that all procedures leading up to the Hawijah strike were followed correctly, the US investigation revealed that Coalition target development processes had been amended after the deadly event, as they had proved to be insufficient. This was not reported to Parliament by Dutch defence officials.

Excerpt of the key US documents released to Dutch media in April 2020. LTG Sean MacFarland approved the recommendation to adjust the Coalition’s targeting development processes.

It was in this context that the Minister, once again, recently had to explain herself in front of a clearly frustrated Parliament. During the May 14th debate, Bijleveld said she shared the frustration of MPs regarding what was characterised as poor communication from the Americans and the Coalition.

In her letter of June 29th to MPs, the Minister wrote that she had met with her US counterpart Mark Esper earlier that day and that he had, in her words, “deplored the course of events, endorsed the importance of transparency and indicated that his department had done everything possible to provide the correct information.”

Red Card Holder

One major criticism of Hawijah was that the Dutch ‘red card holder’ had agreed on the strike taking place – despite the known risk to civilians in the area. The Red Card Holder  (RCH) was the Dutch representative in the Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar, with the option of vetoing actions which fell outside Dutch rules of engagement. According to Bijleveld, as of July 1st, the instructions for the Dutch Red Card Holder have been updated in line with a successful parliamentary motion. From now on, she noted, the red card holder must proactively request important information related to future airstrikes the Dutch military may carry out. In the case of Hawijah, the Dutch RCH was, for example, unaware that the Americans had intelligence suggesting that a possible airstrike posed a risk to civilians.

The Minister’s latest letter also states that the MoD expects to complete its updating of internal reporting procedure on civilian harm in the second half of 2020. The process of informing the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) has already been updated: from now on, the OM will be informed as soon as the MoD starts an investigation into any civilian harm allegation. In the case of Hawijah, it took Defensie nine months to inform the OM.

On June 23rd, the minister additionally proposed a new procedure to inform Parliament of any investigations into civilian harm during future Dutch missions. Whereas the initial plan was to inform Parliament confidentially, the Minister now suggests that due to “the importance the parliament attaches to public transparency”, the default will instead be for the defence ministry to publicly inform parliament of such cases, unless this “is impossible, according to the Minister.”

According to Lauren Gould, Assistant Professor in Conflict Studies at Utrecht University and project leader of the Intimacies of Remote Warfare project, the Minister’s proposal contains several loopholes: “This is history just repeating itself: the Minister uses the catchphrase ‘national, operational and personnel security’ and is exempt from being transparent or being held to account for a lack of transparency. It should be clearly defined when the parliament finds it acceptable that a minister does not inform the broader public. The minister will have to prove that these exceptional circumstances are at play.”

Gould continued: “Furthermore, the question remains: what information will Defensie share with parliament? They’ve stated multiple times that as a small country, the Netherlands is unequipped to independently investigate the nature of targets or the civilian casualties that occur. There’s nothing in the procedure about how they will tackle one of the main problems in the Hawijah case: that crucial information collected by the US about Dutch military actions was withheld from the Dutch parliament and public.”

The aftermath of the Dutch strike on Hawijah in 2015 which killed an estimated 70 civilians (via Iraqi Revolution).

Victim compensation

In her June 29th letter to Parliament, the minister also noted that on June 10th, Defensie personnel had spoken with Basim Razzo, a survivor of another 2015 Dutch airstrike, which had killed four relatives when Mr Razzo’s Mosul home was bombed by a Dutch F-16 as a result of an intelligence error. Mr Razzo himself was severely injured. According to Minister Bijleveld, discussions are continuing with Mr Razzo’s counsel, human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld.

Earlier, the Minister had promised to explore possibilities to voluntarily aid local projects for the devastated community in Hawijah. There have, it’s now emerged, been talks between the Dutch embassy and local authorities on the matter. The Minister writes that Defensie has identified several local organisations operating in Hawijah; and that these have been asked what their community needs. Bijleveld says she hopes to inform Parliament of developments after the summer recess.

“To prevent this information from reaching Parliament in another manner”, the Minister also note that local authorities in Hawijah have expressed concerns about possible undefined radiation after the Dutch airstrike in June 2015. According to Bijleveld however, the munitions used in the attack were not capable of producing radiation. Both the MoD and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs say they will explore whether the concerns of Hawijans can be verified in another manner.

The Minister also reports on a lawsuit filed by human rights lawyer Zegveld in the name of Hawijah’s victims. According to Bijleveld, the Dutch Cabinet has sent a note of sympathy to the victims and their relatives, but claimed that an offer to begin a conversation was rejected.

Explaining that rejection, lawyer Zegveld told Airwars: “[The Minister] wanted to have a one on one conversation ‘human being to human being’ with the Hawijah victim living in the Netherlands. He was expected to come alone, without me or anyone else. We did not agree to that. It’s not about the person Bijleveld, but about her responsibility as a Minister.”

Republishing data

Along with the Minister’s latest June 29th letter to Parliament, the MoD has now also published its weekly reports of all anti-ISIS airstrikes in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2018 as open data, after recent requests from Airwars and the Open State Foundation.

“While Airwars welcomes this next step towards a more transparent Defensie, the content of the data is still below standard,” says Airwars deputy director Dmytro Chupryna. “Other Coalition allies such as the UK already report the specific date, targets and near locations of their airstrikes. For Defensie to become more transparent, improving their reporting on airstrikes really is one of the first steps to take.”

▲ Archive image of munitions being loaded onto a Dutch F-16, during the war against ISIS (via Defensie).

Incident Code

CI881

Incident date

June 30, 2020

Location

بين أبو زوير وحدود حي الحديثة, Between Abu Zuwair and the Al Haditha district border, Saladin, Iraq

Geolocation

35.030418, 42.790203 Note: The accuracy of this location is to District level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

District

Airwars assessment

Up to four civilians were reported killed in Abu Zuwair, Baiji in Iraq on June 30th, 2020 when a US-led coalition drone bombed them after they carried wreckage of a US-led coalition drone that had crashed earlier on that day. Local reports said that the raid resulted in killing up to four shepherds and the destruction of the drone wreckage that they carried and their vehicle.

@firas1alhashmy reported that the US drone (MQ-1C Gray Eagle) crashed and then a number of shepherds who gathered around were killed after they were attacked by another US drone.

@MaithamAlhmdy tweeted that ” A US plane crashed in Abu Zuwair, in the depth of Baiji Island. The plane was captured by shepherds near the demarcation border with the district. Another drone chased after the shepherds and bombed their vehicle. The shelling destroyed the vehicle, killing the citizens immediately.”

@Mustafa__Kurde said that the drone crashed after carrying out an airstrike on Jabal Makhoul. “An American drone crashed in Abu Zuair area between Baiji  and Haditha, northwest of Salah al-Din, after carrying out an air strike on Jabal Makhoul.”

Yesiraq.com said that Al-A’alam Iranian TV Channel said that US drone that crashed was targeted and downed by the Iraqi resistance. Al-A’alam said “A US plane was shot down by Iraqi resistance fires in the Abu Zuwair area in the depth of Baiji Island in Salah al-Din.”

@sumeri129 said that the American airstrike came as revenge for the downed drone. “An American drone crashed, west of Baiji, followed by an American retaliatory raid targeting shepherds , who were killed. ”

Sotaliraq said that after some local shepherds caught the drone, they were bombed. They were killed as a result and Pickup vehicle was destroyed.

While most sources said those killed were sheep herders, @DrJohnHanaDahle said that those killed were found to be members of the Popular Mobilization Forces.

In the third of their September 2020 civilian casualty reports, the US-led Coalition assessed reports that they were responsible for civilian harm in this strike as “non-credible”, stating that no Coalition actions were conducted in the geographical area at that time.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 4
  • (2–4 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (28) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • This image might not be linked to this incident.

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck between Abu Zuwair (ابو زوير) and the Al Haditha (حديثة) district border.  to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Abu Zuwair are: 35.030418, 42.790203.

  • Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck between Abu Zuwair (ابو زوير) and the Al Haditha (حديثة) district border.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    No Coalition strikes were conducted in the geographical area
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • MGRS coordinate
    38SKD986786
    Military Grid Reference System

Civilian casualty statements

US-led Coalition
  • Sep 14, 2020
  • Jun. 30, 2020, in Abu Zuwair, Iraq, via Airwars report. After a review of all available records it was assessed that no Coalition actions were conducted in the geographical area that corresponds to the report of civilian casualties. 3201/CI881 38SKD986786

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 4
  • (2–4 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (28) [ collapse]

Incident Code

CS1948

Incident date

June 24, 2020

Location

الطريق بين بنش ادلب, Road between Idlib and Binnish, Idlib, Syria

Geolocation

35.948631, 36.672105 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

A civilian was reportedly killed in alleged US-led Coalition or Turkish drone strikes on the road between Idlib city and Binnish, Idlib governorate, on June 24th, 2020, according to local sources.

The Syrian Civil Defence in Idlib told Smart New Agency that “an ammunition drone had targeted a Santa Fe car with missiles and destroyed it completely, indicating the death of an unidentified person inside.” The SCD added that another unidentified person, thought to be a civilian, was killed as he was riding his motorbike in the vicinity of the explosion. SCD teams worked to extinguish the fire and collected the human remains.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “a civilian on a motorcycle was killed near the site where a drone targeted a military vehicle driven by a commander in the Ethbatu operations room on the road between Idlib and Binish. The attack killed the commander instantly.”

While the SOHR initially reported that the US-Coalition had likely been responsible, it later wrote that “sources suggested that the drone that targeted the commander was Turkish, while a Coalition drone was flying over Idlib coinciding with the attack.”

Smart News Agency and @HoseenAdnan reported that the killed militant was Abu Adnan Al Homsi from the Al Qaida linked group Hurras Al Din.

In the third of their September 2020 civilian casualty reports, the US-led Coalition assessed reports that they were responsible for civilian harm in this strike as “non-credible”, stating that no Coalition actions were conducted in the geographical area at that time.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (7) [ collapse]

  • Syrian Civil Defence volunteers putting out fire after alleged US-led Coalition or Turkish airstrikes on a vehicle in Idlib governorate on June 24th, 2020 (via SCD on Facebook).
  • Syrian Civil Defence volunteers extinguishing fire after alleged US-led Coalition or Turkish airstrikes in Idlib governorate on June 24th, 2020 (via SCD on Facebook).
  • Syrian Civil Defence volunteers recovering human remains after alleged US-led Coalition or Turkish airstrikes in Idlib governorate on June 24th, 2020 (via SCD on Facebook).
  • Translation: "A circular image of a car that was targeted by an airline belonging to the International Alliance on the road between Idlib and Binnish" (via @moha7_othman).
  • The destroyed vehicle after alleged US-led Coalition or Turkish drone strike on the road between Idlib city and Binnish on June 24th, 2020 (via @moha7_othman).
  • Militant Abu Adnan Al Homsi was reportedly killed in alleged US-led Coalition or Turkish drone strikes on the road between Idlib and Binnish on June 24th, 2020 (via @HoseenAdnan).
  • Translation: "We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return..! Bleed to the Muslim Ummah The news of the martyrdom of the administrative Mujahid brother in the organization of Guardians of religion Abu Adnan Al Homsi, after he was targeted by a raid from an American crusader plane on the road to the city of Bunche in Idlib countryside and God is the helper. Oh God, accept him in the martyrs and raise his rank in the Gardens of Mole" (via @HoseenAdnan).

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck on a road between Idlib (إدلب‎) and Binnish (بنش) to the east. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates between these two points are: 35.948631, 36.672105.

  • Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck on a road between Idlib (إدلب‎) and Binnish (بنش) to the east.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    No Coalition strikes were conducted in the geographical area
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • MGRS coordinate
    37SBV900807
    Military Grid Reference System

Civilian casualty statements

US-led Coalition
  • Sep 14, 2020
  • Jun. 24, 2020, in Idlib, Syria, via Airwars report. After a review of all available records it was assessed that no Coalition actions were conducted in the geographical area that corresponds to the report of civilian casualties. 3202/CS1948 37SBV900807

Turkish Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkish Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Turkish Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Published

May 26, 2020

Written by

Laurie Treffers and Oliver Imhof

Airwars and design partners Rectangle are commemorating those civilians killed and injured in conflicts, by livestreaming over 24 hours the names of 8,337 civilian casualties the international monitor has documented in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Somalia in recent years.

The digital event marks the occasion of the UN’s 2020 Protection of Civilians Week.

Every name has a story

Over twenty-four hours starting at midnight London time on May 26th/27th – the date of the UN Secretary General’s annual Protection of Civilians (PoC)  speech –  the names of just some of the many civilians reportedly killed by air and artillery strikes in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia since 2007 will be livestreamed on our website and YouTube channel.

Khaled Mustafa Qurmo and Khaled Abdel Majid were about to drop off their friend Barakat Barakat at his home in October 2019. The three friends were eating pumpkin seeds while driving through Barisha in northwestern Syria when they were reportedly hit by helicopters searching for ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

“There were so many shells falling on us, it was like rain. My hand, the one holding up Khaled’s head, got cut off,” Barakat explained to NPR last year. “Am I Baghdadi? How is this my fault? I’m just a civilian. I didn’t have any weapons. We’re farmers. I make less than a dollar a day. Now I’m handicapped, and my two friends are in their graves.”

Barakat Barakat is just one of 8,337 civilian casualties over the past 13 years whose names Airwars has recorded while monitoring conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Somalia.

UN Protection of Civilians Week 2020

Through its daily monitoring of local news organisations, social media and official sources, as well as via sources on the ground, Airwars has in total recorded over 119,000 reported civilian deaths and injuries since we began documenting conflicts in August 2014 – of which more than eight thousand casualties attributed to specific belligerents can presently be named.

This UN PoC Week, Airwars aims to commemorate those who have lost their lives, while calling for governments to better account for their military actions.

The project Conflicting Truth is in partnership with the Scottish-American design team Rectangle, who also produce the complex mapping and data representations on the Airwars website.

This week’s live cast is based on an original installation by Rectangle with Sophie Dyer, first shown in Detroit in March 2019. It had been hoped to show Conflicting Truth in New York during this year’s UN PoC Week. Instead, due to the Covid-19 crisis, the decision was taken to livecast a digital version.

Rimas and Shahem Hamdou with their father Hamza al Haj Hamdou. The children were killed in an alleged Russian strike in Thalatheen Street in Idlib city on March 3rd 2020 (image courtesy of the Syrian Network for Human Rights)

Not just numbers

The Airwars/ Rectangle project seeks to show that those killed and injured in conflict are not mere statistics –  they are people with names, friends and families. Their loss inflicts severe pain on relatives, and the communities they belong to.

“I was washing dishes. Suddenly our house was filled with shrapnel. I went out and called Arif (my son), but I did not see him. I only saw black smoke. When the smoke faded away, I saw my son on the ground as a martyr,” said a mother whose son Arif was among eight other children reportedly killed in alleged Turkish shelling on Tal Rifaat in Syria on December 2nd, 2019.

The suffering often does not end with losing loved ones or seeing them disabled: it also heavily impacts the lives of those spared by the fighting. “All a young man like me cares about now is how he gets home safe every day. Or when you go to bed, all you’re thinking about is the possibility that a rocket falls on you,” Marwan, a resident of the southern suburbs of the Libyan capital Tripoli recently told Airwars. “I lost friends, relatives, loved ones in this war,” he elaborates. “I’m doing an MA now, and I’m afraid to lose my dream, and my future and I can’t do anything. That makes me want to run away, to live a decent life with equal opportunities.”

Airwars aims to add as many biographical details of victims as possible. On May 16th of this year for example, the 5-year-old Bangladeshi boy Wahi Zuhair Matin was killed in alleged LNA artillery strikes on Al Fornaj neighbourhood in Tripoli. The GNA-affiliated Burkan Al Ghadab Operation wrote on Facebook that the child’s “ambition was to buy a bike and play ‘like the kids’.”

Civil Society Call for Action

Airwars is also joining with other international partners and organisations in a Civil Society Call for Action to Protect Civilians during PoC week. The joint statement signed by 22 organisations calls on the UN Security Council, Member States, and the UN System to take urgent, bold and practical steps to respond to the challenges that remain in the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

The UN Security Council added the protection of civilians in armed conflict (PoC) to its agenda in 1999, recognising PoC as a matter of international peace and security. The UN PoC Week is held annually between May 27th and June 1st. The United Nations celebrates UN Peacekeeping Day on May 29th.

▲ The original physical installation Conflicting Truth was shown in Detroit in March 2019, and was developed by Rectangle with Sophie Dyer. It features the names of civilian victims preserved in the Airwars database. (Image courtesy of Rectangle)

Incident Code

CS1947

Incident date

May 22, 2020

Location

الشبكة, الشحيل, Al Shabaka, Al Shuhail, Deir Ezzor, Syria

Geolocation

35.096944, 40.456111 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

One civilian was reported killed in alleged joint SDF and US led coalition operation in Al Shuhail in Deir Ezzor on May 22nd, 2020 according to local sources.

Euphrates Post reported that “Muhammad Al-Ouda Al-Khaled Al-Addad from the city of Al-Shuhail, was killed during a security operation carried out by SDF supported by the international coalition forces and helicopters in the Al-Shabaka neighborhood, in the city of Al-Shuhail.”

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that the victim was shot by SDF. “Muhammad Al-Ouda Khaled al Addad from al Shabaka neighborhood in al Shuhail city in the eastern suburbs of Deir Ez-Zour governorate was shot dead by Syrian Democratic Forces personnel during a raid in the neighborhood on May 22nd.”

Suriye.u.a.d blamed the coalition reporting “the death of the civilian Muhammad Al-Oudah Al-Khaled during the airdrop of an international coalition in the city of Al-Shuhail, east of Deir Ezzor.”

Deirezzor24 blamed both forces saying that “International coalition forces, accompanied by SDF forces, just carried out an airdrop operation on a house in the Shabakah neighborhood in the town of Al-Shuhail, east of Deir Ezzor, according to the reporter of Deir Ezzor Network 24. Our correspondent said that the operation targeted the house of Ahmad Al-Oudah Al-Khaled, and its results are not known yet, as displaced persons from Al-Baghouz and Al-Bukamal countryside live in the mentioned area.

In the third of their September 2020 civilian casualty reports, the US-led Coalition assessed reports that they were responsible for civilian harm in this strike as “non-credible”, stating that no Coalition actions were conducted in the geographical area at that time.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the neighbourhood of Al Shabaka (الشحيل), allegedly in the centre of the village of Al Shuhail (الشبكة), for which, due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Al Shuhail are: 35.096944, 40.456111.

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    No Coalition strikes were conducted in the geographical area
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • MGRS coordinate
    37SFU327847
    Military Grid Reference System

Civilian casualty statements

US-led Coalition
  • Sep 14, 2020
  • May 22, 2020, in Al Shabaka, Syria, via Airwars report. After a review of all available records it was assessed that no Coalition actions were conducted in the geographical area that corresponds to the report of civilian casualties. 3203/CS1947 37SFU327847

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Incident Code

CS1946

Incident date

May 17, 2020

Location

الزر, Al Zir, Deir Ezzor, Syria

Geolocation

35.12527, 40.42864 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

A civilian was killed by a sniper on the rooftop of his house in Al Zer as he was watching Coalition forces entering the village of Al Shouhaibl, Deir Ezzor governorate, on May 17th 2020, according to local sources.

Euphrates Eye wrote that “Muhammad Khleif Al Hamra was killed when he was watching the Coalition forces from the roof of his house as they stormed the house of Muhammad Al Hussein Al Madad in Al Shouhaibl town and arrested several people from Al Madad’s house.” The source added that Al Hamra was killed by a sniper and was “a civilian who does not belong to any faction who is the owner of a food store in the town of Al Zir.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “the raiding forces killed a civilian who was shot while he was on the roof of his house located at the outskirts of the village of Al Zir near Al Shouhaibl, where the young man was watching the operation [in Shouhaibl]. His brother was arrested after that.”

According to the SOHR, the incident occurred during a United States forces operation in coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces in the village of Al Shouhaib to find two people from the same family, reportedly working in trade. The special task forces of the SDF surrounded two houses and secured the area before the houses were raided and searched. The two wanted individuals were not found, but two of their sons were arrested.

In their monthly civilian casualty reports, the US-led Coalition has indicated that the credibility of this civilian harm allegation is in the process of being assessed.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Muhammad Khleif Al Hamra was killed by alleged US-led Coalition snipers when he watched Coalition forces enter his village Al Shouhaibl from the roof of his house on May 17th 2020 (via Euphrates Post).
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Muhammad Khleif Al Hamra was killed by alleged US-led Coalition snipers when he watched Coalition forces enter his village Al Shouhaibl from the roof of his house on May 17th 2020 (via Euphrates Post).

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a civilian being struck by gunfire on a rooftop in the village of Al Zir (الزر), while on looking into the adjacent village of Al Shahel (الشحيبل). Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Al Zir are: 35.12527, 40.42864.

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Open incident
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    US-led Coalition, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (7) [ collapse]