Explore the past, present, and future of emergency aid in our Rethinking Humanitarianism series

How Syrians are being killed

Destroyed apartment buildings
Destroyed apartment buildings (Tom Westcott/IRIN)

Dozens of people were reportedly killed by US airstrikes in northern Syria last week in what may amount to the greatest loss of civilian life in the coalition’s two-year war against so-called Islamic State.

UK-based group Airwars, which monitors coalition action in Iraq and Syria, estimated that between 74 and 203 civilians were killed on 19 July near the village of Manbij, where the US is backing rebels in their assault on IS.

The higher number comes from sources Airwars considers less reliable.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said US Central Command would investigate reports of civilian casualties and “continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm”.

Airstrikes have long been a deadly facet of Syria’s war, with the percentage of civilian deaths they have caused reaching new heights after Russia began bombing in September 2015.

"Fighting and violence have escalated across several parts of the country over the last few weeks resulting in widespread civilian deaths, injury and displacement,” top UN emergency aid official Stephen O’Brien said in a statement to the Security Council today. “Strikes, by all sides, continue to be launched on and from heavily populated areas from air and ground without regard for civilian presence."

While finding out how many Syrians have died under what circumstances is extremely difficult, especially trying to distinguish between civilian and combatant, there are several groups doing the tough job.

One of them, the Violations Documentation Center, said missiles hit its Ghouta office on 22 July.

The VDC has been documenting the violence since the war’s onset more than five years ago. IRIN has used its data to produce a visual representation of which weapons are killing Syrian civilians, where, and when.





Share this article
Join the discussion

Support The New Humanitarian

Your support helps us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.