Syria: dozens civilians killed in new massacre by US-coalition in Aleppo

Syria: dozens civilians killed in new massacre by US-coalition in Aleppo
Syrian civil defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, dig through the rubble of a mosque following an airstrike in the village of Al-Jineh late on Thursday. Omar Haj Kadour/AFP

More than 40 civilians were killed by US-coalition airstrikes on a mosque in Syria’s Aleppo province, while the US administration said they were targeting terrorists and will investigate the situation. However, this is not the first such incident happens.

Dozens of people have been killed after fighter jets struck a packed mosque during prayer time in a rebel-held village in northern Syria, according to a monitoring group and activists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group tracking developments in Syria’s conflict, said Thursday’s air raids in al-Jina, southwest of Atarib, in the western countryside of Aleppo, killed at least 42 people and wounded dozens.

The village is located in one of the main rebel-held parts of Syria, the northwest that includes Idlib province and the western parts of Aleppo province, and its population has been swollen by refugees, according to United Nations agencies.

The jets reportedly struck at the time of evening prayer so the mosque was full of worshippers, with local activists saying up to 300 people were inside at the time of the air raids.

Extreme damage, More than 100 injured

Activists posted pictures of bodies scattered on the floor near the mosque.

Teams with the White Helmets organization, a volunteer rescue group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria, also shared images of people being pushed into ambulances and panic-stricken residents searching among the rubble for survivors.

An AFP correspondent saw rescue workers in white helmets working under spotlights with picks and shovels late on Thursday to dig people out of the rubble.

Much of the building, identified by a black placard outside as a mosque, had been flattened.

The empty prayer hall was covered in debris, and rescue workers stepped through it carefully, deliberating about how to break down a wall to search for more survivors.

Fearing additional airstrikes, weekly Friday prayers were canceled in towns and villages across northern Syria, AFP’s correspondent said.

Rescuers had earlier left the wreckage site but were forced to double back when they heard moaning coming from the rubble.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory, which monitors the war via a network of contacts across Syria, said that most of those killed were civilians.

“More than 100 people were wounded,” Abdel Rahman said on Thursday.

“Many people are still trapped under rubble and we believe the number of casualties will increase,” he told the DPA news agency.

Bilal Abdul Kareem, a documentary filmmaker, visited the mosque and said that the toll of the attack was likely much higher than 42, as was reported by activists, as many of the victims had yet to be recovered.

US denies targeting civilians

The US has said it carried out an airstrike in Syria against an al-Qaida meeting but denied deliberately targeting the mosque.

“We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target – which was where the meeting took place – is about 50ft (15 metres) from a mosque that is still standing,” said Col John J Thomas, spokesman for US Central Command.

According to a Centcom statement: “US forces conducted an air strike on an Al-Qaeda in Syria meeting location March 16 in Idlib, Syria, killing several terrorists.”

The Centcom spokesman later clarified that the precise location of the strike was unclear – but that it was the same one widely reported to have hit the village mosque in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

“We are going to look into any allegations of civilian casualties in relation to this strike,” he added.

Many journalists were very critic on the

“The US military is saying that they conducted an air strike in Idlib province and that this air strike was not targeting a mosque but a meeting of al-Qaeda members. They are saying that the confusion might be because the meeting was held about 15 metres away from a mosque but the US military is saying that the mosque is still standing.

“A reporter asked Centcom if they inadvertently targeted a mosque in Aleppo province instead of Idlib and they responded that they would be looking into the reports of civilian casualties.”

Hundreds of others killed before

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq said earlier this month that its raids had unintentionally killed at least 220 civilians since 2014 in both countries.

Critics say the real number is much higher.

Amnesty International said in October 2016 that the US-led coalition has killed at least 300 civilians in Syria.

“In its backing of anti-Isis ground forces during this summer’s Manbij campaign, the US-led coalition killed some 250 or more civilians, and yet it does not acknowledge them,” said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty’s researcher for Syria.

It is a conservative toll compared with estimates from other monitoring groups, which put the number of deaths from coalition bombing at 600 to 1,000. The monitoring groups include the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Violations Documentation Centre.

However, the US administration stick to their story and numbers.

US Central Command, which leaders Operation Inherent Resolve, confirmed 21 civilian deaths in nine new incidents in its latest round of investigations.

“We regret the unintentional loss of civilian lives resulting from coalition efforts to defeat Isis in Iraq and Syria and express our deepest sympathies to the families and others affected by these strikes,” a spokesperson said.

The deadliest single strike was in Mosul on 13 January, where investigators found eight civilians were “unintentionally killed” in an operation targeting Isis fighters in a house.

Anyway, the US administration say that they tke every measure to assure their forces don’t kill civilians by mistake.

“Although the Coalition takes extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimises the risk of civilian casualties, in some incidents casualties are unavoidable,” a spokesperson for said.

“In each of the incidents, the investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the Law of Armed Conflict, unintended civilian casualties unfortunately occurred.”

The US administration admitted it was unable to “fully investigate all reports of possible civilian casualties using traditional investigative methods, such as interviewing witnesses and examining the site”, saying it instead interviews pilots, reviews strike footage and analyses information from partner forces, governments, humanitarian groups,  traditional and social media.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.