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US, UK and France 'Inflicted Worst Destruction in Decades on Raqqa'
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Air and artillery strikes by the US and its allies inflicted devastating loss of life on civilians in the Isis-held city of Raqqa, according to an Amnesty International report. It contradicts claims by the US, along with Britain and France, that they precisely targeted Isis fighters and positions during the four month siege that destroyed large swathes of the city.

“On the ground in Raqqa we witnessed a level of destruction comparable to anything we have seen in decades of covering the impact of wars,” says Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty. She says that the coalition’s claim that it had conducted a precision bombing campaign that caused few civilian casualties does not stand up to scrutiny. She quotes a senior US military officer as saying that “more artillery shells were launched into Raqqa than anywhere since the end of the Vietnam war”.

The air and artillery strikes by the US and its allies killed many civilians – the number is unknown because so many bodies are buried under the ruins – during the four-month-long siege, beginning on 6 June and ending on 17 October last year according to the report. Citing the testimony of survivors, it contradicts assertions by the US-led coalition that it took care to avoid targeting buildings where civilians might be present. Witnesses say that again and again their houses were destroyed although there were no Isis fighters in them or nearby.

“Those who stayed died and those who tried to run away died. We couldn’t afford to pay the smugglers: we were trapped,” says Munira Hashish. Her family lost 18 members, of whom nine were killed in a coalition airstrike, seven as they tried to escape down a road mined by Isis, and two were hit by a mortar round, probably fired by an Syrian Democratic Forces unit. She says that she and her children only escaped “by walking over the blood of those who were blown up as they tried to flee ahead of us”.

Many families were hit more than once by airstrikes and artillery as they fled from place to place in Raqqa, vainly trying to avoid being close to the front lines but these were often changing. The Badran family lost 39 members, mostly women and children, as well as 10 neighbours, killed in four different coalition airstrikes. “We thought the forces who came to evict Daesh (Isis) would know their business and would target Daesh and the leave the civilians alone,” said Rasha Badran, one of the survivors. “We were naive.”

Many cities have been destroyed in the wars in Iraq and Syria since 2011, but the destruction is worse in Raqqa than anywhere else. Streets are simply lane-ways cut through heaps of rubble and broken masonry. The few people on the streets are dazed and broken, and this has not changed much in the months since the city was captured from Isis by local ground forces backed up by the devastating firepower of the US-led coalition.

The claim by the coalition that its airstrikes and artillery fire were precisely targeted against Isis fighters and their positions is shown up as a myth as soon as one drives into the city. I visited it earlier in the year and have never seen such destruction. There are districts of Mosul, Damascus and Aleppo that are as bad, but here the whole city has gone.

I went to look at the al-Naeem Roundabout where the spikes on top of metal railings are bent outwards because Isis used them to display the severed heads of people whom it deemed to be its opponents. On every side, as far as the eye can see, there are ruined buildings, some reduced to a mound of rubble while others have been turned into concrete skeletons that look as if they might collapse at any moment.

Given the level of violence in Iraq and Syria, it is difficult to prove that one place is worse than another, but this has now been established with a wealth of evidence in this Amnesty report entitled War of Annihilation: Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa – Syria.

The report, based on 112 interviews and visits to 42 strike locations, was sharply criticised by a coalition spokesman even before it was published. US Army Colonel Sean Ryan was quoted by news agencies as inviting Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, to “personally witness the rigorous efforts and intelligence gathering the coalition uses before any strike to effectively destroy IS while minimising harm to civilian populations”. Although the report cites the detailed evidence of many surviving witnesses whose family members were killed in airstrikes, Col Ryan says that allegations of indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment were “more or less hypothetical”.

The reality in Raqqa, despite claims of the precise accuracy of modern weapons and great concern for civilian life, is that the ruins look exactly like pictures of the aftermath of the carpet bombing of cities like Hamburg and Dresden in the Second World War.

US forces fired 100 per cent of the artillery rounds used against Raqqa and over 90 per cent of the airstrikes, but British and French aircraft were also involved. The Ministry of Defence says the UK carried out 275 airstrikes and killed no civilians at all. Despite pledges that civilian loss of life would be thoroughly investigated, Amnesty says there is no sign of this happening.

A consequence of the assertion by the coalition that they seldom harmed civilians, there has been little humanitarian support for people returning to Raqqa. Aid agencies say that one problem is finding a safe place where there no unexploded munitions or mines where they can distribute provisions. The report says that many residents ask: “Why those, who spent so much on a costly military campaign which destroyed the city, are not providing the relief so desperately needed.”

An MoD spokesman said: “Keeping Britain safe from the threat of terrorism is the objective of this campaign and throughout we have been open and transparent, detailing each of our nearly 1,700 strikes, facilitating operational briefings and confirming when a civilian casualty had taken place.


“We do everything we can to minimise the risk to civilian life through our rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of the RAF crews but, given the ruthless and inhuman behaviour of Daesh, and the congested, complex urban environment in which we operate, we must accept that the risk of inadvertent civilian casualties is ever present.”

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, ISIS, Syria 
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  1. Anonymous[686] • Disclaimer says:

    Washington’s attacks on ISIS throughout this conflict, both of which it created, were so half-hearted that if the Yanks didn’t gratuitously slaughter a mass of civilians and demolish most of their property, they would have little to show for their “efforts” and all that money spent. By definition, according to the American dictionary, only the battle field actions of Assad and the Russians are war crimes and atrocities.

  2. It should be kept in mind that the “US, UK and France” are totally controlled by their respective Israel lobbies, who order Christian goyim to fight wars against Muslims, for Jews.

    To ignore that is to collude with the Terrorist Theocracy of Eretz Ysrael.

  3. JVC says:

    The USG has a long and “honorable” (sarc) history of waging war against civilian populations. The only thing that has changed since the war of northern aggression is the destructive capabilities of the weapons.

  4. And the funny thing is that after the “great battle”, all the surviving ISIS fighters were allowed to bus out.

  5. And the MSM press says bugger all.

  6. Virgile says:

    The USA, France , the UK and the rest of the coalition should be sued for war crime. One wonders who deserves to be called ‘animal’…

  7. Bianca says:

    Compare Raqqa operations to Aleppo. More then 700,000 prople returned to Aleppo snd surrounding areas. City was demined weeks after Al-Nusra was defeated. Bus and rail traffic are back in areas cleared of destroyed buildings, food snd medical services provided. Schools, University opened. Christmas parade held on Aleppo streets. Compare to Raqqa, where water and electricity are still scarce. Bodies in ruins, mines atill there. Kurds wanted it that way, as they wanted to prevent refugee return and eventually move in more Kurds. This is why it is still run by Kurds against the wishes of majority Arab population. But this cannot lasr. Especially as Turkey is threatening Northern border, and Kurds should wisely abandon US far flung illusion of SDF control, and focus on defending Kobane. Kurds already screwed up hoping for US help, and lost Afrin. Hopefully will not be stupid sgain, and lise Kobane — in irder to fake their presence in Deir Azxkr, Manbij, Raqqa and towns of Euphrates valley. And as they have mostly alreafy abandoned these places, locals are meeting and asking US to leave. This brought in retaliatory strike to scare the population. There is no way Arabs in the region held by US would consent voluntarily to be ruled by Kurds. They want Damascus protection.

  8. anon[317] • Disclaimer says:

    The map in this pictures says it all.. the war is not about the nation or the people in the nation its about
    well take a look at you will see for yourself Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Iran

    Who organized the oil companies to get their nations respective nations .. to invade??

    Now it is clear why hate Russia..

    The price of oil is too low for the vested interest in the middle east.. there fore Iran and Russia
    who supply most of the better sold for less oil must go, otherwise the Pharaohs who own the
    western oil companies will not be able to rape the people their nation state puppets control.

    The nation state system is like a prison, with rules, punishments and all.

  9. rosemerry says:

    The Russian UN rep. when the FUKUS attack on Syria took place described how the USA had done nothing to rebuild the Raqqa the USA had “liberated” months before,as opposed to the extensive work done by Russia in Aleppo (remember how the liberation there was described as destruction by the “western media”??) No good news about Russia must be permitted, but lies to say the USA is a “good guy” abound. Good to see one change here.

  10. RVBlake says:

    The objective of the Ministry of Defence is to “keep Britain safe from the threat of terrorism”? That must come as a shock to the English residents of Rotherham.

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