The New York Times reveals probable US war crimes in Syria
Syria–The New York Times ran an article on November 13, accusing the US military of concealing two airstrikes conducted in Syria on March 18, 2019, which allegedly killed 64 women and children, committing a possible war crime during the struggle against the Islamic State. The newspaper said the Army had never conducted an independent investigation into the case but instead tried to cover it up.
In particular, according to the report of the US newspaper, these are two consecutive airstrikes conducted near the city of Baghuz and which had been ordered by an undisclosed US special operations unit in charge of ground operations in Syria. After a military drone had scoured the area in search of military targets, an F-15E fighter would have dropped a bomb weighing about 225 kg on a crowd of women and children near a riverbank without any warning. Then, after some had fled, a second jet would have dropped two bombs of about 900 kg killing the survivors.
The US central command, which oversaw US air operations in Syria, confirmed the attacks for the first time in the week of November 8-14, saying they were justified operations. In a statement of November 13, then, the Central Command reiterated the report provided to the newspaper. In the attacks, 80 people were killed, including 16 Islamic State fighters and four civilians. The military said it was unclear whether the other 60 people were civilians, partly because women and children could have been combatants as “more armed women and at least one-armed child were observed” in the video of the events.
The military then added that the attacks were “legitimate self-defence,” that they were proportionate and that “appropriate measures were taken to exclude the presence of civilians.” The Central Command then added that it assumes “full responsibility for the involuntary loss of life.” The Central Command then specified that the attacks occurred while the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were under heavy enemy fire and risked being overwhelmed. In addition, the SDF had reported that the area was free from civilians.
According to the New York Times, the Washington Department of Defense Inspector General had initiated an investigation into the March 18, 2019 incident. Still, any mention of the attack had been removed from his report, and a thorough and independent investigation would never have started. The newspaper said its report is based on confidential documents and descriptions of non-public papers and interviews with staff directly involved.
Among the revelations, the personnel of the Al Udeid airbase in Qatar, which served as the center of combined air operations, would have observed the scene “in disbelief.” In the chat among those who monitored the live footage of the drones, someone would have written, “We have just dropped a bomb on 50 women and children”. An Air Force attorney present at the operations center believed the attacks were possible war crimes and later alerted the Defense Department Inspector General and the Senate Armed Services Committee. Still, they did not take any action.
For the New York Times, the bombing of Baghuz, one of the most considerable civilian casualties of the war against the Islamic State, was never publicly recognized by the US military. As a result, the death toll would be minimized; reports would be delayed, cleaned up, and classified confidential. US-led coalition forces would demolish the blast site, and top management would not be informed.
A civil war is underway in Syria that began on March 15, 2011, when part of the population started to demonstrate and demand the resignation of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. As clashes intensified, some groups of Sunni Islamic fundamentalists radicalized and began to fight for control over the country’s specific areas. In this context, the Syrian Army is assisted by Moscow and supported by Iran and the Lebanese militias of Hezbollah. The Syrian rebels, on the other hand, are supported by Turkey.
In this context, ISIS took over, whose self-proclamation took place on July 29, 2014. The United States intervened in the Syrian conflict through Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military mission against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, launched on June 15, 2014, after the official request for support made by the Iraqi government. On March 23, 2019, the SDF officially announced the conquest of the last enclave under the control of ISIS, Baghuz, in eastern Syria. In this way, the self-proclaimed jihadist caliphate was brought to an end on June 29, 2014.