The Syrian official opposition is calling for suspension of the International Anti-ISIS Coalition airstrikes after one of them killed at least 56 civilians on Tuesday, northeast of Aleppo. Meanwhile, the US is hosting an International Coalition meeting to press allies to do more in the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.
Tuesday’s strike happened near the ISIS controlled town of Manbij. The civilian death toll of the airstrikes in the region is now over 125, according to most sources. Al-Jazeera reported as many as 200 casualties, including many children.
The Syrian Coalition, the official opposition of the Al-Assad regime, sent an urgent letter to the ministers of foreign affairs of the international coalition demanding immediate suspension of the airstrikes until an investigation of this “horrific massacre” is completed. It said:
“We believe that such incidents indicate a major loophole in the current operational rules followed by the international coalition in conducting strikes in populated areas. It is essential that such investigation not only result in revised rules of procedure for future operations, but also inform accountability for those responsible for such major violations.”
The National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposing Forces, by its full name, was formed expressly to oppose dictator Bachar Al-Assad and is officially supported by the international community. Their principal mission is to become a transitional government in charge of restoring democracy and peace. They are currently based in Istanbul, trying to organize for the election which is supposed to take place in November.
Amnesty International (AI) sided with them and accused the International Anti-ISIS Coalition of failing to take the necessary steps to avoid civilian casualties.
“There must be a prompt, independent and transparent investigation to determine what happened, who was responsible, and how to avoid further needless loss of civilian life. Anyone responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be brought to justice and victims and their families should receive full reparation,” urged Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of AI’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
AI found that the true death toll of the strikes was difficult to document. They were able to confirm 60 civilian casualties in the last couple of days and about a hundred since the Coalition’s operation in Manbij began on March 31st.
The United-States officially announced the launching of an investigation on the last airstrike in Manbij. However, the International Coalition has ignored the majority of cases when civilian deaths have been reliably demonstrated to this day, says Amnesty International.
US Seeks Additional Support for Military and Political Action
Meanwhile, they are pressing their allies to increase their involvement in the international anti-ISIS coalition. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter gathered 30 of his counterparts, including Canadian Minister of Defence Hajrit S. Sajjan, for a two day-long conference on a Maryland military base.
The International coalition, led by the US, was formed two years ago with the express goal of coordinating military intervention against terrorist groups ISIS and Al-Nosra, in Iraq and Syria. The fourth meeting of the coalition started on Wednesday. Ministers are expected to plan further military and political intervention against the Islamic State in the Middle East.
Sajjan just announced that Canada will send 40 to 60 of its army’s medical personnel in an effort to retake the Iraqi region of Mosul, currently controlled by local militias. Canada had previously announced that the operation to take back the Iraqi region of Fallujah from militias last month would be its last combat mission.
Canadian Minister of Foreign affairs Stéphane Dion is expected to join the Maryland talks today. He was in Washington this week, like many other ministers of Foreign affairs. Together, they promised over two billion dollars of humanitarian aid to Iraq. This is an additional commitment for Canada, who had promised 1.6 billions over three years back in February.
If there was any talk of the civilian casualties during the meeting, it has not reached the media. At the time this article was written, the Syrian Coalition was reportedly holding an urgent meeting “to discuss the situation in Manbij and to consider appropriate action to address such a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.”