'Coalition strikes kill 106 civilians' in Al Mayadeen

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[The citizenry is being blown to bits by all sides involved: "They used to have to have 'near certainty' that no civilians would be killed - it's a much looser rule now." No reaction from the US-led coalition to reports of at least 106 deaths from an attack on ISIL-held Al Mayadeen in Deir Az Zor. See also: War in Afghanistan Is Killing Children in Record Numbers in 2017. *RON*]

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

At least 106 civilians, including 42 children, have been killed in a series of air strikes by the US-led coalition on an ISIL-held town in eastern Syria, according to a monitoring group.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says the deaths resulted from air strikes targeted Al Mayadeen in the province of Deir Az Zor.

"There were two rounds of strikes: one at Thursday night and the second after midnight, targeting buildings housing families of [ISIL] fighters," Rami Abdel Rahman, the SOHR's head, told DPA news agency.

Abdel Rahman said most of those killed were Moroccan and Syrian nationals who had fled to Al Mayadeen from ISIL's de-facto capital, Raqqa, in northeastern Syria.

The first round of air strikes reportedly killed 35 civilians.

The SOHR tracks developments in Syria's conflicts via a network of contacts on the ground.

There was no immediate comment from the 68-member coalition led by the US.

Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington DC, said the latest air strikes may relate to the so-called 'December Directive' - a memo sent by former US President Barack Obama changing the command structure enabling commanders on the ground to bypass the Pentagon and order air strikes, while also easing the restrictions on when they could fire. US President Donald Trump has maintained this directive.

"They used to have to have 'near certainty' that no civilians would be killed - it's a much looser rule now," she said.

"And that's why you're seeing many human rights groups coming out and saying that those changes need to go back to how they were before the 'December Directive'."

The latest strike came as the UN urged all countries bombing ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, in Syria to better distinguish between civilian and military targets.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN human rights chief, said on Friday that civilians are increasingly paying the price of escalating attacks against ISIL, also known as ISIS, in Syria.

"The same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by ISIL, are also falling victim to the escalating airstrikes, particularly in the northeastern governorates" of Raqqa and Deir Az Zor," Al Hussein said in a statement from Geneva.

"Unfortunately, scant attention is being paid by the outside world to the appalling predicament of the civilians trapped in these areas."

Hussein cited a May 14 strike that reportedly killed 23 farm workers in a rural area of Raqqa province and an air strike the following day that is said to have killed at least 59 civilians and wounded dozens in ISIL-controlled al-Bukamal (also known as Abu Kamal), another town in Deir Az Zor.

Al Hussein also said he was concerned about retaliatory measures taken by ISIL against civilians suspected of facilitating the air strikes and reports that civilians were being prevented from leaving ISIL-controlled areas.

The day after the al-Bukamal incident, ISIL fighters reportedly cut the throats of eight men at the site of the attack, accusing them of providing coordinates for the air strikes.
The bombing campaign

The US-led coalition began bombing ISIL targets in Iraq in the summer of 2014, and expanded their operations to Syria on September 23 of that year.

This week, the SOHR reported the highest monthly civilian death toll for the coalition's operations in Syria.

Between April 23 and May 23 of this year, coalition strikes killed a total of 225 civilians in Syria, including dozens of children.

The coalition is backing two ground offensives against ISIL's last remaining strongholds: Raqqa in northern Syria and Mosul in neighbouring Iraq.

On Thursday, a Pentagon investigation concluded that at least 105 civilians died in an air raid on an ISIL weapons cache in Mosul in March.

Prior to the new revelation, the US military had said coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria had "unintentionally" killed a total of 352 civilians since 2014.


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