November 2015

Written by

Chris Woods

Major developments

    The US-led Coalition ended October 2015 having carried out 5,107 airstrikes in Iraq and 2,712 in Syria so far in its 14-month air war against Daesh. Some 28,578 bombs and missiles had been dropped by 13 allies.
    There were 22 reported incidents of concern in October 2015 – ten in Syria and 13 in Iraq – in which the US-led Coalition is alleged to have killed between 83 and 102 civilians. Most events were either poorly reported or contested – a sign of the deteriorating security situation in the field for casualty recorders. Only three incidents in October are presently assessed by Airwars as having being fairly reported, which between them appear to have killed between 8 and 11 civilians.
    Russia reported carrying out 1,391 combat sorties to the end of October – its first full month of airstrikes – which it says “engaged 1,623 terrorist objects.”
    There were also 104 incidents of concern in Syria in which Russian aircraft allegedly killed between 528 and 730 non-combatants. We presently assess 44 of these incidents as fairly reported, which between them are likely to have killed between 255 and 375 civilians.
    Canada became the third nation to announce its withdrawal from the Coalition air campaign after Belgium and Denmark – though strikes are presently continuing under the new administration of Justin Trudeau.
    The US reported its first combat fatality of the war, following the death of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler of Delta Force in an Iraqi ground raid.

Civilian casualties

    Reported civilian fatalities by the US-led Coalition were significantly down for October – in part because of a steep decline in airstrikes in Syria. Even so, there were 22 alleged incidents of concern involving multiple reported civilian deaths.

The Al Fadhi children (via Mosul Ateka)

In Kisik near Mosul on October 18th for example, at least five civilians died when missiles apparently struck a local taxi. Abdullah Fathi Al Fadhi was killed with his wife and at least two of their children (pictured.) Another child reportedly survived the attack. Taxi driver Ammar Anwar Mohammed Jamil (who held a Masters in computing and mathematics from Mosul University) also died as he was bringing the family back to Mosul from the Turkish border. The Coalition has confirmed carrying out an airstrike at Kisik that day.

    For more on Centcom’s November 20th admission that Coalition aircraft have ‘likely’ killed civilians in Iraq, see our report here
    A high number of reported incidents – 104 in total – allegedly involved the Russian Air Force in Syria for October according to Airwars researchers. Though still assessing these events, we can offer some preliminary findings.

– The number of Russian airstrikes which caused non-combatant deaths has to an extent been exaggerated. With all Syrian regime combat aircraft also Russian-made, some confusion appears inevitable. In addition, for some events it remains unclear whether fatalities were caused by Russian (or Syrian) aircraft, or by ground forces. And on at least two occasions, alleged civilian fatalities at Bukamal and Palmyra may have been caused by the US-led Coalition.

– Even so, credible allegations of civilian fatalities inflicted by the Russan Air Force are worryingly high. All regional casualty recorders report extensive non-combatant deaths – often in mass casualty incidents (see table below.) The majority of these deaths have occured in areas which are not under Daesh occupation. These include parts of Syria controlled by other extremist groups including Jaish al-Fatah and the al-Nusra Front, as well as by more moderate factions.

– Credible reports frequently indicate the deliberate targeting by Russia of civilian neighburhoods and infrastructure – with graphic evidence on a number of occasions of civil defence rescuers deliberately targeted in so-called ‘double tap’ strikes.

– Russia’s limited use of precision or ‘smart’ munitions is a key factor in higher civilian casualties.

– Airwars presently assesses 44 Russian incidents as having likely killed civilians in Syria to October 30th – which between them reportedly killed 255 to 375 non-combatants. This is roughly ten times the level of credible allegations against US-led Coalition operations in Syria.

    In one of the worst known incidents, an air raid shelter in the village of al Ghantu was reportedly hit in a Russian airstrike on October 15th, killing up to 48 people from one extended family. Among the dead were at least 23 children and nine women. Local cameramen filmed apparent Russian Air Force Su-24s bombing the town, despite the Kremlin making no reference to airstrikes in the governorate of Homs that day.

The moment a Russian missile hit al Ghantu, Oct 15th 2015

Estimates of civilians killed by Russian Air Force in Syria, September 30th- October 31st 2015

Monitoring group Estimated Russian-inflicted civilian fatalities
Airwars 255-375
Syrian Network for Human Rights 254
Violations Documentation Centre 329 or more
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 185*

* To October 28th

Coalition and Russian military actions

    Both the US-led Coalition and Russia continued to build up their air power in the region. Turkey opened up more bases for Coalition operations, while Russian Air Force fighters and bombers primarily operated from Hmeymim in Lattakia governorate – a stronghold of the Assad regime.
    A Kurdish Special Forces assault on a Daesh holding facility at Hawijah, Iraq led to the release of 70 civilian prisoners. However, Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler of Delta Force was also killed in the raid – the first US combat fatality in its 14 month war against Islamic State. Responding to concerns that the war was expanding, CENTCOM issued a statement insisting: “It is important to realize that US military support to this Iraqi rescue operation is part of our overarching counter-terrorism efforts throughout the region and does not represent a change in our policy.  US forces are not in Iraq on a combat mission and do not have boots on the ground.“
    Canada’s Liberal Party returned to power in a surprise victory on October 19th 2015, with new premier Justin Trudeau vowing to end Ottawa’s year-long combat operations in Iraq and Syria. However, despite Trudeau’s government being sworn in on November 4th, Canadian airstrikes have so far continued.
    France carried out a second round of airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria on the night of October 8th, following a decision by President Hollande two weeks earlier to expand military operations against the terror movement. Two Rafales targeted a ‘Daesh suicide training centre.’

Rafale aircraft bombed Islamic State positions in Raqqah on the night of October 8th, as France stepped up operations against the terror group (Ministère de la Défense)


October 2015

Written by

Basile Simon and Chris Woods

Major developments

    US-led Coalition strikes allegedly killed as many as 276 civilians in up to 25 problem events in Iraq and Syria in September 2015 In twelve of these events, there appears enough credible evidence  – coupled with confirmation of allied airstrikes in the vicinity – to suggest that a minimum of 86 civilians were killed by the Coalition in September Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict on September 30th did not bode well. Between 42 and 50 non-combatants, including 11 children, were reported slain in the Kremlin’s first day of strikes An overall total of 7,200 strikes had been carried out by the US-led coalition to the end of the month, according to Airwars estimates. Some 4,605 strikes in Iraq accounted for almost 64% of this total, while 2,595 strikes had targeted Syria The air war again changed form in September – with France and Australia now targeting Daesh in Syria as well as in Iraq, while Denmark ended its airstrikes

A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle pops a flare while departing after refueling over the Middle East (USAF/ Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)

Civilian casualties

    Airwars continues to be concerned at the number of credible reports of civilians being killed in Coalition strikes. We added 25 new incidents of concern for September 2015 to our evolving database. These new events allegedly killed at least 86 and as many as 157 civilians.

To the end of September 2015, Airwars had in total recorded 229 alleged civilian casualty incidents involving the Coalition dating back to August 2014. The overall alleged civilian fatality range was 621 to 1,859.

In the view of Airwars, 103 of these events are fairly reported and are of particular concern – with two or more sources and Coalition strikes confirmed in the near vicinity.  Some 621 to 857 reported fatalities across Iraq and Syria were associated with these credible incidents.

In contrast, after 24,861 bombs and missiles dropped the Coalition has only conceded two ‘likely’ civilian deaths in Syria so far – and none in Iraq.

    With few reported Coalition strikes in Syria for the month, Iraq was the focus for most claims of civilian deaths.  On September 14th for example, an alleged Coalition strike hit the marketplace at Ar Rutbah, Iraq killing five non-combatants according to local media. No Coalition strikes were publicly reported in the vicinity. On the same day Daesh claimed that the Coalition accidentally struck an armed vehicle belonging to Shia militia at Bayji. There were no confirmed casualties.

On September 18th at least 43 civilians were reported killed at Senyah in Iraq in a strike by unidentified aircraft. Tribal leaders called on the Baghdad government to “open an urgent investigation into the identity of the planes.”

Najeeb and Tuka al Rezzo (Photo used here courtesy of family)

On September 21st four members of a Mosul family – university professor Mohannad Al Rezzo; his 17-year old son Najeeb Mohannad Al Rezzo; Mr al Rezzo’s sister in law Miyada Rezzo and her 21-year old daughter Tuka all died in a reported Coalition strike which was initially ignored by international media. Yale professor Zareena Grewal later wrote of the deaths of her close relatives for the New York Times: “I desperately want the Islamic State to be defeated, but I wonder if our rage at it has made us blind to anyone we kill along the way, even those whose lives have been terrorized by the group.”

And on September 29th, a Coalition strike on a former Waqf [religious affairs] building in Mosul being used by Daesh also appears to have struck a nearby marketplace, killing between 11 and 29 non-combatants. Eyewitness Said Ali Mohammed, who works in the nearby market, told Gulf Online that he was inside his shop at the time, which is located just 500 meters from the Waqf building. He described the first explosion as “enormous… while we were preoccupied with tending to neighbors and some of the injured on the street, a second bombing targeted people who had rushed in to help the wounded.”

    Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict on September 30th caused devastating civilian casualties at a number of locations. At least 15 civilians died at Zafaraniya. At least 17 more non-combatants were killed at Talbisheh, and 8 or more at Al Rastan. Eleven children were among the dead.

None of the towns targeted by Russia were occupied by Daesh despite the Kremlin’s insistence it had “performed high accuracy strikes against international terrorist organization ISIS.”

Aftermath of Russian strikes at Talbiseh, Sept 30th 2015

Military actions

    September 2015 was the most intense month of bombings in Iraq so far, with 525 strikes carried out by the Coalition – setting another consecutive record after August 2015. As with August, Mosul and Ramadi were heavily bombed (87 and 67 strikes respectively).

In Syria however, only 127 strikes were carried out – making September 2015 the second least intense month of bombings. The small city of Mar’a, north of Aleppo, was targeted by 28 strikes.

An Iraqi army soldier moves away from a 120 mm mortar he fires during training at Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq, (US Army/ Cpl. Nelson Rodriguez)

    The United States remained the primary power in the international Coalition, having carried out 89 per cent of all strikes in Syria in September, and 72 per cent of all airstrikes in Iraq.
    In addition to 18 or more new airstrikes in Iraq in September, France carried out its first attack on Daesh inside Syria. President Hollande has described France’s role in Syria as “acting in self defence“, rather than helping the Assad regime.
    Australia also began airstrikes in Syria. After three Hornets reportedly destroyed their targets in eastern Syria, then-defence minister Kevin Andrew spoke with ABC Australia: “We work within very strict rules of engagement, and those rules of engagement are to ensure as far as possible that we don’t have unwanted civilian casualties.“

    ‘No circumstances.’ UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Chris Beckett)

    While the UK remained heavily committed in Iraq, the government had yet to win Parliamentary approval for strikes against Daesh in Syria. Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, referring to the current refugee crisis in Europe, said that this “problem” needed to be dealt “at source,” with Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly hoping to obtain Parliamentary authorisation for airstrikes.

However new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – historically anti-war – has said  he can think of “no circumstances” under which he would back any UK military intervention in Syria. A previous attempt to authorise airstrikes  (against the Assad regime) was defeated in Parliament 285-272, in August 2013.

    Denmark voluntarily and publicly revealed that one of its attacks “might have caused civilian casualties.” This set a new benchmark for transparency, wrote Airwars guest reporter Rasmus Raun Westh. A CENTCOM investigation later concluded the strike “most likely” did not kill civilians.

Denmark’s F-16s also ended their year long engagement after plane mechanics appealed to the public, warning of ongoing stress and overwork at their base in Kuwait, as well as cracks in the planes.

Danish aircrew load a 2,000lb bomb onto an F-16 for its last Iraq mission (Danish MoD/Ronny Rasmussen)


▲ A stunned survivor at the scene of an alleged Coalition strike on the Sunni Waqf building, September 27th 2015 (via NRN News)


September 2015

Written by

Basile Simon and Chris Woods

Major Developments

    6.548 Coalition airstrikes had been carried out to the end of August 2015 according to an Airwars count. Of these, 62% targeted Daesh in Iraq (4,080 strikes) with 2,468 airstrikes in Syria In total, Coalition aircraft had dropped 22,478 bombs and missiles on Iraq and Syria to August 31st Airwars recorded 12 new alleged civilian casualty incidents attributed to the Coalition for August. At least 62 non-combatants reportedly died in these events A report by  Syrian casualty monitor SN4HR claimed that at least 225 civilians were killed by the Coalition in Syria alone to July 31st, 2015 Denmark set a new transparency benchmark, announcing within days that its aircraft may have been involved in a civilian casualty incident in Iraq in late August Turkey became the 13th nation officially to join the coalition, as Denmark announced its own operations would temporarily end on October 1st

Civilian Casualties

    We added 12 new incidents of concern for August 2015 to our evolving database, which to the end of the month had recorded 188 such events.  Between them these new incidents were alleged to have killed at least 62 civilians.

Two August incidents at Ar Rutbah in Iraq were denied by the Coalition, which insisted it had not carried out strikes on the town on the days in question. A further six cases are presently weakly reported.

Four events warrant particular attention. On August 11th US aircraft bombed the western Syrian border town of Atmeh. Nine named civilians – including seven children – died according to multiple eyewitness and survivor reports.

A single civilian was reported killed in a possible Coalition strike at Al Qaim in Iraq on August 18th, while on the following day a missile reportedly struck a public celebration in Mosul, killing as many as 18 people including local dentist Dr. Samir Ibrahim (pictured.)

The fourth incident was self-reported by the Danish military, and is currently being investigated by CENTCOM. This involved potential civilian casualties in the Irbil area of Iraq – most likely the villages of Kisik or Sultan Abdallah.

    In total, to the end of August 2015 Airwars had identified 187 alleged civilian casualty incidents involving Coalition aircraft, and 10 ‘friendly fire’ cases. These represented a total alleged civilian fatality range of 1,170 to 1,539.

In the view of Airwars, 86 of these events warrant particular concern – with two or more credible sources and Coalition strikes confirmed in the near vicinity. Some 539 to 734 reported fatalities across Iraq and Syria were associated with these incidents. To date, the Coalition has only conceded two ‘likely’ civilian deaths.

    The Syrian Network for Human Rights published a report on August 11th investigating 24 new problem incidents in Syria from February 2015. It documents the death of 125 individuals, including 55 children, 26 women, and three members of armed opposition groups.

The report deplores Daesh’s strategy of establishing strongholds in densely populated areas, but also concludes: “International Coalition forces violated the International Humanitarian Law by targeting ISIL forces in densely populated civilian areas.” It also urges “serious investigations” into the incidents it describes, and asks that “compensation should be given to those affected.”

Military Actions

    The Coalition carried out 522 airstrikes in Iraq in August 2015, topping the previous record of July 2015 (518 strikes). These attacks were mainly targeting the vicinity of Mosul and Ramadi (75 strikes each), and supporting the Peshmerga offensive in Tuz (62 strikes).

A total of 210 strikes were also carried out in Syria, mostly around Al Hasakah (90 strikes), Aleppo and Kobane (31 strikes each).

On average, 23.62 strikes were carried out each day in August, making this the second most intense month of Coalition strikes so far.

An F-16 takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey August 12 2015 (USAF/ Snr Airman Krystal Ardrey)

    The United States remains the dominant partner in the Coalition’s war against Daesh. According to Coalition data supplied to Airwars, just 2 airstrikes were carried out by the US’s partners in Syria in August – with American aircraft carrying out 215 strikes (99 per cent.) In Iraq the US was responsible for 495 strikes, with its allies conducting a further 216 attacks (30 per cent.)

The UK was particularly active in Iraq in August, carrying out 36 new strikes – 24 by its Reaper drones. The Netherlands was the next most engagded with an estimated 100 bombs and missiles dropped during the month – roughly 33 airstrikes. Denmark dropped 81 bombs – approximately 24 strikes. France reported 23 new strikes, followed by Canada with 12 strikes, and Australia with an estimated 11 airstrikes.

    Following a gruesome attack on civilians in the border town of Suruc, Turkey opened its airbases to the US military last month, Turkish jets have carried out their first airstrikes as member of the coalition on August 29th. The Guardian, quoting Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency and the Dogan news agency, reports that these strikes may have taken place in Manbij and north of Aleppo. Defense Secretaty Ash Carter said: “We need them also—as a neighbor to this conflict zone, as a longtime NATO ally and a responsible member of the anti-ISIL coalition—to control the border, the long border they have with both Syria and Iraq, more than it has been controlled over the last year.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen announced that Denmark had decided to pull out of the Coalition and to send its jets home on October 1st. The four active and three reserve F-16s had already flown 476 missions and dropped 425 bombs, according to the Defence Ministry. According to Associated Press, Danish aircrews were being stretched too thinly by the extended campaign: “Last month, Danish plane mechanics warned against extending Denmark’s one-year mission with Operation Inherent Resolve, saying staff members were stressed and some of the planes had cracks.”

    Junaid Hussain (pictured) a 21-year-old from Birmingham, UK and number three on the Pentagon’s “kill list” of Daesh targets, was reportedly slain by a US drone strike. In addition, Al Baghdadi’s number two, Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, was also reportedly killed – although it’s the third time the Coalition claims to have taken his life.

The British government also later admitted that it had carried out its first drone targeted killing away from the battlefield on August 21st, killing two UK citizens and a third alleged terror suspect when a car was struck by a Reaper near Ar Raqqa in Syria. The RAF attack, independent of Coalition operations, sparked intense national and international debate.

    The Coalition was very active around the Iraqi town of Tuz, supporting a Peshmerga offensive which regained 200 square kilometers of terrain and seven villages from Daesh, according to CJTF-OIR: “Coalition forces carried out 13 deliberate and 12 dynamic strikes over a three-day period in support of the Peshmerga operation.“
    Vital Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions passed the 1,000 mark in Iraq and Syria for the first time as the UK, France and Australia expanded their ISR operations into Syria. Tracking by Airwars shows that after more than a year of operations, ISR provision still lags far behind that in Afghanistan.


July 2015

Written by

Chris Woods

ABOVE: General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, takes questions during a ‘town hall’ session in Baghdad July 18th (US Army/ Spc. Tristan D. Bolden)

Additional reporting by Basile Simon, Kinda Haddad and Latif Habib

Major Developments

     In the two weeks since our last report, the Coalition has carried out 246 new airstrikes in Iraq, with a further 162 attacks on Islamic State in Syria Turkey begins offensive air operations against Daesh in Syria, bombing three positions near the border The UK reveals that its pilots have in fact carried out airstrikes in Syria – against the express wishes of parliament As the coalition air assault on Raqaa continues, credible claims of civilian deaths continue to mount. Mosul has also seen a number of fresh reports of civilian deaths

Civilian Casualties

     In the past two weeks, eight new events have been identified by monitoring groups and media sources – in which the coalition has reportedly killed up to 34 civilians. Five incidents were in Ar Raqaa in Syria, while an additional three took place in Mosul, Iraq
    As coalition airstrikes continued to batter the key Islamic State city of Ar Raqaa, local monitoring groups all registered a steep rise in alleged civilian deaths. Three separate incidents on July 11th led to claims that nine non-combatants died, including a civilian firefighting crew and four members of one family.

#Raqqa a women die with 3 of her children and her husband leg was cut Because Airstrikes by Coalition warplanes Yesterday #Syria #ISIS

— Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi (@raqqa_mcr) July 11, 2015

    Mosul was also heavily targeted by the coalition, with up to 22 new civilian deaths claimed.

In one incident, waiter Muhannad Hisham Alnemah died in an alleged coalition airstrike near the Al Afandi Restaurant in the main street of Hadbah neighborhood. An unspecified additional number of restaurant staff and customers were also reported killed and injured.

Muhannad Hisham, killed in an alleged coalition strike on Mosul July 17 2015 (via Mosul Ateka)

According to the Mosul Ateka site, Muhannad had looked out of the restaurant door during a coalition airstrike – and had seen a terrified young child in the street. He rescued the child, but was then struck in the head by shrapnel as he re-entered the building. He later died of his injuries in hospital.

Muhannad’s death occurred on the first day of Eid, the public holiday celebrating the end of the Ramadan fasting period.


    The monitoring group Syrian Network For Human Rights – a key source of Airwars data – published a new report detailing the number of people (both civilians and fighters) who have been reported killed in Syria’s civil war between January and June 2015.

In total, 11,090 new deaths were recorded. Of these, some 8,509 (77%) died at the hands of the Assad regime, while Islamic State accounted for 1,490 fatalities, or a further 15 per cent.

Worryingly, the coalition was reported by SN4HR to have killed more civilians in the first six months of 2015 than either Kurdish liberation forces or Al Qaeda affiliate the al Nusra Front.

Military Actions

    Turkey began airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria on July 24, with the New York Times reporting that “Three F-16 jets bombed two command centers and a meeting point for Islamic State fighters across the border from Kilis, in southern Turkey, without entering Syrian airspace.”

Turkey also announced that it would now allow the United States to use a key airbase at Incirlik for airstrikes against Daesh, 

According to reports, the decision by Turkey to fight alongside the international military coalition came after Daesh carried out a suicide bombing on the town of Suruc which killed 32 Turkish civilians. 

    Muhsin Al Fadhli (via al Watan)

    The Pentagon announced that US forces had killed the leader of the so-called Khorasan Group on July 8th. Muhsin Al Fadhli died in a US drone strike near the town of Sarmadan, according to a spokesman. He was described as head of an al-Nusra Front faction which the US says is planning terrorist acts against the West. Airstrikes against the group are reported separately from those against Islamic State, and appear to be unilateral US actions.

    The British government revealed that its pilots have also been carrying out airstrikes in Syria – despite a parliamentary vote explicitly banning such actions.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request from the legal charity Reprieve, the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced that British pilots had previously carried out strikes in Syria while embedded with US forces.

According to reports, Royal Navy pilots had flown FA-18 Super Hornets on Syrian bombing runs which were launched from the US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. It remains unclear whether embedded British drone crews have also carried out airstrikes in Syria.

    Britain also lowered its count of the number of airstrikes carried out in Iraq by almost 30% – with strike numbers to June 30th dropping from 308 to 226. According to the MoD, the move was to bring it in line with coalition counting methods.

An F/A-18 Super Hornet of the type flown by embedded British pilots launches from the USS Carl Vinson, May 2015 (US Navy/ Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner Jr)


▲ Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, listens to a soldier’s question during a 'town hall' session with US personnel in Baghdad, July 18 2015 (US Army/ Spc. Tristan D. Bolden)


July 2015

Written by

Chris Woods

ABOVE: Burnt out wreckage of a car carrying seven alleged Al Nusra Front members, destroyed in a US targeted strike in Syria July 8 2015 (via SNN)

Additional reporting by Basile Simon, Kinda Haddad and Latif Habib.

Major Developments

    Casualty recorders publish the name of a 200th alleged victim of coalition airstrikes in Syria. In Iraq, some 48 of those reportedly killed have so far been named Three new events are reported this week in which civilians were allegedly killed by the international coalition. All of them were in Raqaa in Syria – scene of heavy coalition bombings since July 4th Airstrikes in Syria across the week surpass those in Iraq – the first such occasion in some months The UK reveals it killed an estimated 240 Daesh fighters between October 2014 and May 2015 – though denies killing any civilians or friendly forces during the same period

Civilian Casualties

    Ar Raqaa was the focus of intensive coalition action this week – some of the heaviest international bombing seen within Syria since September 2014. Almost all bridges into the city  were destroyed for example – and a number of prominent Islamic State/ Daesh leaders were also targeted and killed.

Monitoring groups complained of civilian ‘collateral damage’ in at least three coalition events. Two children were among seven named civilians reportedly killed by shrapnel on July 4th, after an apparent drone strike outside the al Hameed school destroyed a car carrying a group of Daesh fighters.

Ten year old Fouad Hamoud Al Nimr died along with his father in the attack, while Mohammad Hammad Al A’akassi, aged 15, died the following day of his injuries. Other children and adults were badly injured, with Daesh producing a number of propaganda videos relating to the event.

A young survivor of a reported US airstrike receives medical attention, July 4 2015 (via Raqaa is Being Slaughtered Silently)

    The naming of all seven victims of the July 4th Raqaa incident brings to 200 the number of people so far individually identified as having (allegedly) been killed by the coalition in Syria. Up to 158 more remain publicly unidentified.

However with many of these claimed deaths poorly reported – or also attributed to actions by other parties such as the Assad regime – it remains challenging to offer definitive estimates.

In Iraq, the reporting of civilian casualties is proving even more difficult. There are presently no equivalents of monitoring groups such as the Syrian Network for Human Rights – with casualty claims often scattered across micro-media and social media sites.

To date, 48 non-combatants have so far been individually named as having been killed in alleged coalition actions in Iraq. The latest to be identified is Kherallah Ahmed Al Saleh Al Thawabi, described as a car mechanic from Huwija. He is one of as many as 70 civilians killed in a confirmed coalition strike on the town on June 3rd.

Kherallah Ahmed Al Saleh Al Thawabi, reportedly killed in a coalition strike June 3 2015

Military Actions

    The international coalition carried out 190 airstrikes across Iraq and Syria between July 3rd-10th 2015. For the first time in many months, the majority of bombings (98) took place in Syria.

Almost all air strikes in Syria remain the work of the US, with few bombings since January 1st the work of its Arab or Canadian military partners. All strikes since June 20th have been US-only, for example, according to data supplied by the coalition.

    While little-discussed in Western media, America’s unilateral airstrikes against the Al Nusra Front (an Al Qaeda local affiliate) continue to target elements of the so-called ‘Khorasan Group’ in Syria.

On July 5th an al Nusra Front “tactical unit and vehicle” were attacked near Aleppo. And on July 8th, CENTCOM reported that it had again targeted a vehicle and tactical unit, this time near Idlib.

Local monitoring groups were more forthcoming, reporting that a sequence of five US airstrikes had targeted an al Nusra commander in his car near the village of Kafr Daryan on July 8th, killing seven alleged militants in total.

    Britain revealed that in the first eight months of its air campaign against Daesh in Iraq, it estimates that its Reaper drones and Tornado manned aircraft killed 241 “enemy combatants” – roughly one fighter per UK airstrike.

Britain insists that over the same period, its aircraft killed no civilians or friendly forces in Iraq.

    Following the recent withdrawal of Belgium from the 12-member coalition, CENTCOM told Airwars that it remains hopeful the European nation will restart its air campaign against Islamic State in one year’s time:

“We still have a Belgian liaison officer here in the CAOC representing his country. While the Belgians have brought their F-16s home temporarily, we fully expect their return to the fight in the future as part of the dedicated Coalition response against Daesh. Pending political approval the return of the Belgian F-16s is foreseen for July 2016.” [CENTCOM spokesman to Airwars, July 6th 2015]

A French Air Force Rafale approaches a Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A to refuel during a combat sortie over Iraq on July 2, 2015 (USAF/ Tech. Sgt Christopher Boitz)


▲ Burnt out vehicle following a US targeted strike on al Nusra Front - July 8 2015 (via SNN)


July 2015

Written by

Airwars Staff

ABOVE: A bomb-laden Belgian F-16 prepares for a mission in Iraq, December 2014 (Belgian MoD)


Major Developments

    Belgium announces it has ended its military role in the coalition, withdrawing its F-16s after approximately 41 airstrikes 13 fresh problem events are reported for June in both Iraq and Syria, involving multiple civilian deaths allegedly caused by coalition aircraft Airstrikes in Iraq alone now total over 3,000 UK considers expanding its air war against Daesh to Syria, in the wake of a Tunisia massacre of 30 British civilians by the terror group


Civilian Casualties

    In Iraq, seven new incidents of concern were reported for June in which coalition aircraft may have killed civilians.  Up to 81 people died in three events where coalition strikes were confirmed in the near vicinity, and where the publicly available evidence indicates a coalition role in the deaths.

A further 47 civilian fatalities were alleged by single sources only for three more incidents in Iraq, while one attack which killed up to 50 people at Huwija’s marketplace appears to have been the work of the Iraqi military.

In the most serious incident, as many as 70 civilians died when the coalition did bomb an IED factory at Huwija on June 3rd. Announcing a formal investigation into the mass killing three weeks later, a CENTCOM spokesman accepted that claims of civilian deaths in the attack were “credible.”

    In Syria, six new events led to multiple claims of coalition-inflicted civilian deaths for June. Between 16 and 34 people died in four attacks in which strikes by coalition aircraft were confirmed in the near vicinity. One further alleged strike is presently single-source only, while an attack at Kheshan which killed three may have been the work of the Assad regime.

In the most recent reported event for Syria, a 10-year old boy named as Mohmmad Ali Ahmad Al Assaf died with unnamed others when their car was struck near Tal Abyad on June 30th by an alleged coalition air strike.

#الرقة طيران التحالف يستهدف سيارة مدنية جنوب سلوك 20كم ويوقع عدد من المدنيين قتلى عرف منهم الطفل"محمد علي احمد العساف

— Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi (@raqqa_mcr) June 30, 2015

ABOVE: Tweet by local activist describes June 30th death of 10 year old boy in alleged coalition airstrike

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reports that 19,205 Assad regime air raids in Syria between January and June 2015 killed and injured some 30,000 people.


Military Actions

    During June 2015, the international coalition carried out 622 airstrikes, 407 of which targeted Daesh in Iraq, and 215 in Syria. After May and January 2015 (respectively 677 and 625 strikes), this represents the third most intense month of bombings since the beginning of the campaign in August 2014.

More than 3,000 airstrikes have now targeted Iraq alone since coalition operations began.

    Belgium appears to have caught some of its coalition partners by surprise this week, announcing on July 2nd that its military contribution to the coalition – Operation Desert Falcon – was officially over.

According to officials, Belgium’s six F-16 aircraft had released 141 bombs and missiles on Islamic State positions in Iraq since October 5th 2014 (approximately 40 airstrikes.) This represented the smallest contribution of any western military to the campaign.

Coalition officials were keen to downplay Belgium’s exit from the air war. One European military spokesman, speaking on background terms, told Airwars that financial pressures appeared to lie behind the Belgian government’s decision to withdraw its forces – and that there were hopes that Belgium’s aircraft might return to Iraq in 2016.

    Britain’s Prime Minister and Defense Secretary have both mooted the possibility of the UK expanding its attacks against Islamic State to targets inside Syria. The UK is already the second most active member of the international military coalition, responsible for around one in 10 of all airstrikes in Iraq.

Until now, the UK has been prevented from striking inside Syria following a parliamentary vote on September 26 2014. However, in the wake of a Daesh atrocity in Tunisia on June 26th which killed 38 people – 30 of them British – the ruling Conservative administration in the UK is keen to see the air war expanded.

A fresh parliamentary vote is not expected until September, by which time a new leader of the Labour Opposition will have been elected.

The Netherlands marked its 1,000th armed sortie against Islamic State forces in Iraq this week (Dutch MoD)


June 2015

Written by

Basile Simon

ABOVE: Delegates at the 29th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 22 2015, heard calls for coalition members to promptly investigate reports of civilian casualties (UN)

Major Developments

    The coalition ends its 46th week of bombings having carried out 141 airstrikes on Islamic State. New UN report calls on international coalition to conduct “prompt, independent and impartial” investigations into alleged civilian casualties – and to publish their findings. Nato met this week to discuss plans to re-engage in Iraq to fight Islamic State, four years after the alliance departed from Iraq. More than 1,000 American and British drone strikes have now been reported – making the anti-ISIL conflict the most intense use of armed drones in history A report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reportedly found that 162 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes in Syria since the beginning of the campaign.

Civilian Casualties

    A major new report on Islamic State for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has urged the coalition to conduct prompt, independent investigations into alleged civilian casualties caused by its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria – and to publish the results.

Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights, cited ongoing Airwars research as part of a wide-ranging report looking at Islamic State human rights abuses – and the obligations of those fighting the terror group.

Titled Human rights in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Emmerson’s report – presented at Geneva on June 22 – also includes a series of recommendations.

As well as urging Iraq and Syria to become parties to the International Criminal Court – and for the UN to pursue Islamic State for alleged war crimes – members of the international coalition fighting Daesh are also urged to limit the risks to civilians on the ground.

As Emmerson notes: “All States engaged in military action against ISIL in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic are under an obligation to conduct prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiries in any case where there is a plausible indication that civilian casualties have been sustained, and to make public the results.”

UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson presents his report on Islamic State at Geneva on   June 22 (United Nations)


    According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 162 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes since the beginning of the campaign. SOHR reportedly documented the death of 2,896 people in Syria, and found among them 2,628 Daesh fighters, 105 Al Nusra combatants, one “fighter from an Islamic brigade”, and 162 non-combatants. “After 9 months, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights re-expresses its strong condemnation, to the fall of the 162 civilians, as a result of the coalition airstrikes, and calls for neutralizing civilians areas from all kinds of military operations,” said SOHR.

Military Actions

    To June 26th, the coalition had concluded its 46th week of airstrikes, having carried out 104 attacks against Islamic State in Iraq, with a further 37 bombings in Syria. The operations in Syria focused particularly around Tal Abyad, a small city on the border with Turkey. 12 out of 37 coalition strikes in Syria were reported in this area alone. All these strikes were carried out by US forces.In Iraq, the bombings concentrated again around the north and western part of the country. 73 strikes were produced by the US, while 31 were by American allies. US armed Predators and Reapers have already carried out 875 drone strikes in Iraq and Syria, out of approximately 3,600 American airstrikes since August 2014. “We’re involved in pretty much every engagement,” the drone commander at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada told the Daily Beast.

With the British also reporting that approximately half of its 290 airstrikes against Daesh have been by its Reapers, the war against Islamic State represents the most intense use of armed drones in any conflict to date – with more than 1,000 drone strikes already recorded in the first 10 months of fighting.

“With around one in four American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria now being carried out by drones  – and as many as one in two British strikes – the present war against Islamic State shows the increasing dominance of remotely-piloted warfare,” says Chris Woods of Airwars. “However, continuing and credible reports of civilian casualties from the battlefield suggest the drone isn’t the ‘perfect’ weapon some have claimed.”

     After the Netherlands announced last week that its mandate to fight Daesh has been extended until October 2016, Nato is planning on re-engaging in Iraq, four years after it departed the country, The Guardian reports. One of the plans considered is the training of Iraqi officers, as Baghdad is currently struggling to counter Islamic State’s progression.

US and British Reapers are playing a major role in the war against ISIL (Library image via US Air Force/ Staff Sgt. John Bainter)


▲ A general view of participants during the 29th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council. 22 June 2015. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré


June 2015

Written by

Chris Woods

ABOVE: Residents of Tal Abyad region flee the fighting between Islamic State and YPG Kurds, June  2015 (SNN)

Major Developments

    Coalition ends 45th week of bombings having carried out 4,673 airstrikes on Islamic State At least 6 and as many as 20 civilians were reported killed in a series of coalition airstrikes on June 13th, in support of the capture by Kurdish forces of Tal Abiyad, Syria The coalition says it has five investigations presently ongoing into non-combatant deaths – and will release its findings upon conclusion France reports its 150th airstrike against Daesh in Iraq

Civilian Casualties

    A major battle between Kurdish forces and Islamic State in northern Syria resulted in thousands of civilians attempting to flee into Turkey. Most were forced back by Daesh and by Turkish border forces.

On June 13th two or possibly three alleged coalition incidents led to the apparent deaths of a number of civilians. A family of five was reported killed near the town of Slouk as they attempted to flee the fighting in two vehicles. In addition a child was reported killed near Ma’adan; and up to 15 further civilian deaths were alleged from other coalition airstrikes in the vicinity.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “international coalition aircraft last night carried out several strikes in the area of Sukair in the southern countryside of Tal Abiyad. Initial reports indicate deaths and injuries of civilian nationals in the bombing. We have confirmed reports of the death of a child following coalition bombing on the area of Ma’adan in the Raqqa countryside.”

The Shaam Network claimed that as many as 20 civilians died in attacks, a figure also cited by Eldorar which stated: “Activists reported that five people from one family from the village of Slouk were killed yesterday morning following coalition air strikes on civilians fleeing from the hell of the battles in the countryside of Tal Abiyad. A further 15  were killed in aerial bombardments on the villages and towns in the areas areas that are seeing clashes with IS.”

Islamic State also posted a video (since deleted by YouTube) showing a rescue in progress at Ar Raqaa, which it said was the result of a “coalition airstrike.” However elsewhere Daesh attributed the attack to Assad regime aircraft.

    In a Pentagon-facilitated interview on June 19th, Brigadier General Thomas D Weidley told defense correspondents that “on civilian casualties we take great pains, excruciating steps, to avoid them.”

Weidley also said that the coalition presently has five investigations underway into alleged non-combatant deaths, though he would not say more for “security and appropriateness” reasons. However, he insisted that the coalition would make details of the investigations public once they had concluded.

Military actions

    To June 19th 2015, the coalition had concluded its 45th week of airstrikes having carried out 2,875 attacks against Islamic State in Iraq, with a further 1,798 bombings in Syria.
    The tempo of international coalition airstrikes in Iraq continued to outstrip those in Syria. In Iraq, 92 airstrikes targeted Islamic State positions across the north and west of the country. Of these, 66 strikes were by US aircraft and 26 by America’s allies.

In Syria, 37 airstrikes were reported by the US-led coalition – with only one of them carried out by another coalition member. On this occasion one of the Arab allies in the region appears to have conducted the attack, though an absence of coalition transparency makes this impossible to verify

    France reported its 150th airstrike against Islamic Forces in Iraq. In a rare show of detail, a press release described how on June 12th, a patrol of two Mirage 2000 D aircraft had dropped three laser guided bombs on Islamic State positions at Tal Afar.
    In an indication of the lengthy air war now underway, the Dutch government extended its military mission to October 2016. Dutch F-16s will continue to work closely with their Belgian opposites in tackling Islamic State, it was reported.

A Netherlands F-16 refuels over the Middle East (Dutch MoD)

▲ Residents of Tal Abyad region reportedly fleeing fighting between Islamic State and YPG Kurds June 13th 2015 (SNN)