By AFP – Jul 06,2017 – JORDAN TIMES
Displaced Syrians who fled with their families from Daesh controlled areas in Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Mayadeen gather at Aleppo’s bus station of Ramussa on Thursday (AFP photo)
BEIRUT — US-led coalition air strikes have killed at least 224 civilians since the Syrian forces it backs entered the Daesh extremist group bastion Raqqa a month ago, a monitor said on Thursday.
But the coalition pushed back against the report, saying its “critics” were not conducting “detailed assessments”.
Arab and Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) broke into Raqqa on June 6 after a months-long operation to encircle the northern city.
“At least 224 civilians, including 38 children and 28 women, have been killed in air strikes by the global coalition on Raqqa since the SDF entered it,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Britain-based observatory said it did not have a toll for those killed in other ways, including by other military operations, mines, or while trying to flee the city.
Tens of thousands of civilians are believed to be trapped inside Raqqa, with warnings that the extremists are using them as human shields.
Raqqa residents who have managed to escape say Daesh snipers are targeting anyone trying to leave the city.
The “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” activist collective says dozens of civilians have lost their lives in artillery, shelling, and explosives laid by Daesh in recent weeks.
The observatory said clashes and air strikes in Raqqa had killed 311 Daesh extremists and 106 SDF militiamen since June 6.
The US-backed coalition is providing the SDF’s Raqqa campaign with heavy air support, as well as special forces advisers, weapons, and equipment.
Its spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon pushed back against the observatory’s toll, saying the coalition would be publishing its own monthly civilian casualty report on Friday.
“We hold ourselves accountable with an open and transparent process to assess allegations of civilian casualties, and we publish these findings on a regular basis for the world to see,” he said.
“Most of our critics do not conduct such detailed assessments and often rely on scant information, which frequently comes from single, unreliable sources,” Dillon added.
He said the coalition strived for “zero human casualties” with tough targeting protocols aimed at protecting non-combatants.