On March 16, US forces bombed Idlib, Syria, apparently targeting an Al Qaeda meeting. Almost immediately after the strike, human rights organizations on the ground said roughly 50 civilians had died in the strike and it had demolished a mosque during prayers while 300 people were inside. There are other reports that US led airstrikes in Raqqa hit a school sheltering refugees, leading to 33 deaths.
Today, both the NY Times and Washington Post are reporting that the US army is investigating reports from Mosul, Iraq that coalition airstrikes have killed over 200 civilians in the past few days.
Iraqi rescue workers on Friday pulled dozens of bodies from the ruins of a building in Mosul, where residents allege a U.S.-led coalition strike killed 137 people a week ago.
If confirmed, the number would mark the biggest loss of civilian life in a single incident since the coalition’s air campaign began 2½ years ago. Equipped with a bulldozer and chainsaws, men in red overalls picked their way through the rubble of the large house in the city’s heavily bombarded neighborhood of Mosul al-Jadida.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Mahmoud, Mosul’s civil defense chief, said families had gathered in the building because it was one of the few with a basement. His team had retrieved the bodies of 61 people, including two babies, from the rubble over the past two days. But he said he expected dozens more bodies to be found as the excavation continued, with rescue workers yet to reach the basement or other collapsed rooms. — Washington Post
Iraqi forces who called in the airstrikes have reportedly said there were snipers on the buildings and the strikes were called in to take them out. Airwars, a British organization tracking the airstrikes in Syria and Iraq has said over a 1,000 civilians are believed to have been killed in coalition airstrikes this month. In several cases, residents say dozens of bodies remain buried under the rubble. There are also reports that militants are intentionally keeping civilians in buildings and fighting from the rooftops.
Several children have died in the strikes, which have often annihilated entire families. Ten children also died in the failed Trump-authorized mission in Yakla, Yemen.
Another Iraqi special forces officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that there had been a noticeable relaxing of the coalition’s rules of engagement since President Trump took office.
Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration’s rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt. Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes.
Some American military officials had also chafed at what they viewed as long and onerous White House procedures for approving strikes under the Obama administration. Mr. Trump has indicated that he is more inclined to delegate authority for launching strikes to the Pentagon and commanders in the field. — NY Times
Civilian casualties on this scale have happened before. Last July, a US airstrike in Manbij, Syria killed 150 civilians which we discussed on Daily Kos then.