May 2015

Written by

Chris Woods

Major developments

  • After nine months of strikes the coalition finally admits its actions have killed civilians – confirming the “likely” death of at least two children in Syria
  • A last-minute spate of Coalition airstrikes fails to prevent Islamic State from over-running the crucial city of Ramadi in Iraq
  • The 4,000th airstrike since operations began in August 2014 is confirmed
  • Arab partners once again carry out no anti-Daesh air strikes in Syria – though Canada carries out its second airstrike in the country, targeting alleged militants at Ar Raqqah

Civilian casualties

Scene of a May 20 alleged airstrike which reportedly killed 7 civilians at , Syria (SNN)

Scene of a May 20 airstrike which reportedly killed 7 civilians at al Tawama, Syria (SNN)

  • Airwars recorded one new incident of concern this week – a coalition action on May 20th at al Tawama in Syria, which allegedly killed between 7 and 11 non-combatants. According to media reports, an airstrike on the al Nusra Front, a local  affiliate of al Qaeda killed a number of insurgents. However civilians also reportedly died at two locations in the town.

The coalition confirmed to Airwars on May 22nd that it had carried out the strike at al Tawama. However, it declined to confirm whether the al Nusra Front or Khorasan Network was targeted; or whether an investigation into the alleged civilian deaths is now underway.

  • The Syrian Network for Human Rights issued its latest report into the ‘massacre’ of 64 civilians at the village of Ber Mahli on April 30th. After interviewing a number of survivors, the group claimed that “the international coalition targeted six houses directly with no less than six missiles, as some of these homes were targeted again after people and medical teams gathered to help the victims and wounded.” A number of eyewitness testimonies were also released by SNHR.

Every time we’d try to get out the plane would start bombing.
We lost so many people, women and children.
 Eyewitness (SNHR)

  • CENTCOM declassified a top secret investigation into a US airstrike in Syria on November 6th 2014, confirming for the first time that coalition airstrikes had “likely” killed two civilians, both children.

Airwars welcomed the publication of the report, but also raised concerned at the unnecessary delays involved. Details of the childrens’ deaths had been published within hours of the US attack. And redacted emails released by CENTCOM indicate that military officials were aware of possible civilian deaths almost immediately after the event.

Yet it was not until January 8 2015 – two months after the killings – that an inquiry was ordered. Overseen by coalition commander Lt. General James L. Terry, the declassified report confirms that a series of US air raids on the so-called Khorasan Group, a faction of Al Qaeda, had also “triggered secondary explosions.”

In the interests of accountability and transparency, Airwars has urged the coalition to speed up ts investigation processes – and to be far more open about where and when coalition partners are bombing.

The terms of the investigation into civilian casualties at Hari, Syria (CENTCOM declassified report)

The terms of the investigation into civilian casualties at Hari, Syria (CENTCOM declassified report)

Coalition actions

The international coalition reported an intense week of bombings between May 15th and May 22nd.

In Syria there were 49 new airstrikes – 48 of them carried out by the United States according to data released to Airwars.The majority of strikes (35 in total) were focused around al Hassakah. The areas around Kobane, Ar Raqqah, Aleppo and Dayr az Zawr were also targeted.

Canada carried out its first airstrike in Syria since April 9th, targeting “an ISIS staging area north of Ar-Raqqah.”

Arab coalition partners once again carried out no airstrikes in Syria, instead focusing their efforts on their war against Yemen. According to data collated by Airwars, Arab partners including Saudi Arabia and Jordan have only carried out two airstrikes in Syria since March 28th – compared with 289 strikes by the United States.

Defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert visits Dutch F-16 crews in the Middle East, May 15 2015 (Dutch MoD)

Defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert visits Dutch F-16 crews in the Middle East, May 15 2015 (Dutch MoD)

In Iraq, a late surge of coalition airstrikes failed to prevent Islamic State from capturing the strategic city of Ramadi.

Strikes later targeted a significant weapon stockpile abandoned by the Iraq Army, with the coalition claiming it had destroyed “five abandoned tanks, two abandoned armored personnel carriers and two abandoned armored vehicles” in Ramadi.

Elsewhere in Iraq, heavy airstrikes continued around the Bayji oil refinery, scene of another months-long power struggle between Daesh and Iraqi forces. Strikes were also reported in the vicinity of nine other major towns and cities across Iraq. In contrast with Syria, one in three coalition airstrikes in Iraq are presently being carried out by seven US allies, including the UK, France and the Netherlands.

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