Amnesty suspects that US Central Command (CENTCOM), which directs coalition airstrikes in Syria, “may have… carried out unlawful attacks” in Syria, failing to take necessary measures to prevent civilian killings.
“We fear the US-led coalition is significantly underestimating the harm caused to civilians in its operations in Syria,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.
“It’s high time the US authorities came clean about the full extent of the civilian damage caused by coalition attacks in Syria. Independent and impartial investigations must be carried out into any potential violations of international humanitarian law and the findings should be made public.”
Amnesty investigated evidence, including eyewitness accounts, reports by human rights organizations and the media, photographs and video footage as well as satellite imagery, related to 11 suspected coalition attacks in Syria. The group estimates that the attacks have claimed as many as 300 civilian lives. So far none of these deaths has been acknowledged by CENTCOM.
The report published on Wednesday added that the total civilian death toll from coalition action “could be as high as 600 or more than 1,000” since the operation against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) started in Syria in 2014.
One of the strikes investigated by Amnesty took place in the early hours of December 7, 2015. The attacks hit two houses in the village of Ayn al-Khan, near al-Hawl in al-Hasakah governorate in northern Syria, killing 40 civilians, including 19 children, and injuring at least 30 others, the report said.
According to an eyewitness account, an initial night strike was followed by a second attack from a helicopter gunship, which hit first responders trying to dig out survivors.
“At this point I had a two-month-old baby boy in my arms whom I had rescued. The hit caused me to fall and drop him… …