USAF warplanes kill at least 28 more civilians in northern Syria
Barry Grey, WSWS, Jul 30 2016
In a new Pindo atrocity in Syria, USAF warplanes on Thursday bombed a market in the ISIS-controlled village of al-Ghandour near the northern city of Manbij, killing at least 28 civilians, including seven children. According to a report by one monitoring organization, an additional 13 people, possibly ISIS fighters, were killed in the airstrike. The latest mass killing occurred in the same region where, nine days before, the USAF bombed a group of houses in the village of Tokhar, where nearly 200 people had gathered to seek refuge from fierce fighting between US-backed forces and ISIS militants near Manbij. Virtually all those inside the houses were killed or injured, with the reported civilian death toll varying from a low of 56 to a high of more than 200. That massacre was the single most deadly bombing attack on Syrian civilians inflicted by any warring party since Pindostan launched its war to overthrow Assad five years ago. Over 400,000 people have been killed and millions of civilians have been displaced and turned into refugees as a result of the Pindo-instigated civil war. Thursday’s deadly airstrike in al-Ghandour came one day after the USAF announced it had initiated a formal inquiry into the Jul 19 bombing of Tokhar. Such inquiries are cynical whitewashes. It takes on average seven months for the release of a redacted version of the findings, which inevitably minimize the scale of the war crime and attribute it to inadvertent errors. Following the attack on al-Ghandour, CENTCOM issued its standard, pro forma denial:
We take all measures during the targeting process to avoid or minimize civilian casualties or collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the law of armed conflict.
The contempt of the USAF for the Syrian people and indifference to the mass suffering it inflicts are summed up by the absurdly low figures it gives on civilian casualties from its airstrikes. CENTCOM this week released the results of its investigations into civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria over the past year, and concluded that only 14 civilians had been killed in six separate USAF attacks. Washington claims its bombs have caused a total of 55 civilian deaths since its war against ISIS was launched two years ago. But groups that maintain a tally of the civilian toll such as AI and Airwars say the real figure is at least 10 times that number, and could be far higher. Amnesty researcher for the region Neil Sammonds puts civilian deaths from attacks by the coalition at over 1,500 across Iraq and Syria. Following Thursday’s attack on Tokhar, Sammonds told the Guardian:
Levels of civilian killings from the coalition are so high now, we are edging towards the 1,000 figures, and they don’t disclose it, they are covering it up. They dismiss evidence pointing to civilian casualties if it hasn’t been captured from the sky by their own operatives, so even if there are photographs of scores and scores of dead bodies, with names, it’s still discounted.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights, which is part of the anti-Assad opposition, says coalition strikes have killed more than 400 civilians in Syria alone. In 2015, a London-based group of journalists released a report saying that in the coalition’s first 12 months of airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, it killed 459 civilians in 57 incidents. Even Pindo-backed opposition groups in Syria denounced Thursday’s attack as a “massacre.” The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) in a statement posted on Twitter declared:
The international coalition committed a new massacre in the Manbij countryside when it bombed the area of al-Ghandora yesterday, killing dozens of people, among them children.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said:
(Civilians) were killed when the warplanes of the international coalition committed a massacre in the town of al-Ghandour in the north-western countryside of Manbij city, east of Aleppo province, and the death toll is expected to rise because there are some people in critical situation.
The USAF claim that war crimes such as the Jul 19 bombing of Tokhar and the Jul 28 attack on al-Ghandour are merely accidents is a lie. Following the Tokhar airstrikes, the SNC sent a letter to the foreign ministers of the coalition’s member nations demanding immediate suspension of the coalition’s military operations to allow for a thorough investigation of that attack. The USAF flatly refused. Washington considers winning control of Manbij, a strategic transit point in the governorate of Aleppo between Turkey and the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa, to be critical to the campaign against ISIS. It is backing Kurdish-dominated forces fighting ISIS in the region. More importantly, Pindostan is desperate, whatever the cost in Syrian lives, to prevent Russian-backed Syrian government forces from driving Faschingstein’s Islamist proxy forces out of Aleppo, the most populous Syrian city before the outbreak of the civil war. Assad’s forces in recent days made a strategic advance in their battle to take control of the besieged city by closing off the last remaining supply route to the “rebel”-held eastern half. In response to government gains in recent weeks, Pindostan has sharply escalated its lethal attacks on both military and civilian targets. Chris Woods, director of Airwars, told the Guardian:
We tracked a huge increase in civilian deaths in Syria in June above May, a rise of 72% from the previous month. At least 210 civilians have been killed by coalition airstrikes in the battle for Manbij alone.
On Thursday, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, announced that the group was reconstituting itself under the name Levant Conquest Front and severing its formal ties to AQ. He said the decision, which was praised by the AQ leadership, was aimed at ending Pindosi and Russian bombing of its forces in Syria. Nusra is the main fighting force opposing Assad and a de facto ally of Pindostan, although Faschingstein lists it as a terrorist organization and agreed to formally exclude it from a partial ceasefire it reached with Russia last February. In practice, various supposedly “moderate” Islamist groups openly backed by Washington fight alongside Nusra against Assad. Also on Thursday, Russian and Syrian officials announced a plan to allow opposition fighters and civilians in Aleppo safe passage out of the city. They said the plan included an offer of amnesty to insurgents who laid down their arms and food and accommodation to any of the 300,000 civilians trapped in the devastated and food-deprived city who chose to leave. Pindostan immediately denounced the plan, with Pindo Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power calling it “chilling.” What Washington finds “chilling” is not the prospect of more bloodshed and perhaps thousands dying of starvation and lack of fresh water, but a decisive defeat of its AQ-linked proxy forces.