Wednesday, November 12, 2014

West of Eden: Civilian casualties update

Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has released its numbers for civilian deaths caused by US-Coalition airstrikes since the campaign began September 23:
50 civilians ( 8 children , 5 women ), killed by coalition air strikes on oil fields and refineries in al-Hasakah and Der-Ezzor countrysides, al-Raqqa, Around Menbej northeast of Aleppo, and Idlib countryside.
Alongside 68 fighters from the Al-Nusra force and 746 (probably more, they think, mostly non-Syrians) from the Da'esh or "Islamic State".

That's compared to the 21 civilian deaths they had reported by October 18, suggesting a kind of steady rhythm, one murdered civilian per day or more like seven a week (they're killed in clumps, several at a blow). I still believe there are genuine efforts in the Pentagon to reduce the number of civilian deaths from bombing campaigns, but it's as if they've hit some kind of barrier beneath which they can't get. (If the Idlib killings they mention are the 16 civilians killed on September 26 cited by the Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice, then it's possible almost no civilians have died in Coalition airstrikes since the October 18 attack on Deir-Ezzor, which would be extremely good news.)

Then again, it's remarkable how many of them were killed under the same circumstances, during attacks on the oil industry installations Da'esh uses as an income source, in bombing that, as SOHR notes, also causes bad environmental damage. Al-Arabiya reports today that their oil sales from Iraq and Syria combined are bringing them in $3 million a day, which makes it sound like pretty serious business, but also shows that the strikes have failed to stop it. If the Coalition would abandon this particular branch of its tactics, they could bring the number of civilian deaths to near zero.

So that's my recommendation.

It's not just the Caliphic forces that operate strange little oil refineries in al-Hasakah; this one in the Kurdish town of al-Qahtaniya was photographed last May by Rodi Said/Reuters. Via Financial Times.

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