Since the beginning of operations to retake western Mosul, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs), as per the UN, has risen to 220,000, with hundreds of thousands still trapped inside without access to food or water.
Approximately 4,000 civilians have lost their lives. This isn’t considering those whose bodies are still trapped under the rubble and destruction.
The tactics used by Iraqi forces and its coalition allies are much more heavy-handed than before. Various videos on social media show the federal police firing mortars and rockets into densely populated areas.
Now, anyone with a basic knowledge of artillery knows that these weapons are extremely inaccurate and there is no way of knowing where they will land and who they will kill.
This loss of innocent life is fueled by Daesh’s willingness to use human shields. Snipers often perch themselves upon the roofs of people’s homes as they trade fire with Iraqi forces.
They gather civilians into tight spaces and use them as warehouses to store munitions. This prompts Iraqi forces to call in air support from the U.S.-led coalition, which often retaliates with devastating airstrikes that lead to the death of civilians.
One such strike occurred two weeks ago. As the world watched horrific events unfold in London, a much more tragic event occurred -- and went largely unnoticed in the eyes of the international community and on social media.
On March 23, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed approximately 230 civilians, many of whom were women and children. For the lucky ones, their lives were extinguished in the blink of an eye.
The not-so-lucky ones were trapped under the rubble and subsequently died of suffocation or succumbed to their injuries.
This event is similar to one that occurred in February of 1991 during the First Gulf War in which the U.S. Air Force struck a bomb shelter in Baghdad’s Amiriyah neighborhood, killing some 400 civilians sheltering inside.
Back then, as now, the U.S. had intelligence that civilians were within the “kill zone” and that there would likely be civilian casualties. This therefore begs the question, why go ahead with the airstrike knowing full well the potential for civilian loss of life?
Are the lives of poor Iraqis worth so little that a simple push of a button releasing a laser-guided rocket is so easy?
Mosul is slowly being turned into another Aleppo. But, this time, without the international outrage and crocodile tears that were shed.
Now, rather than the Assad regime and Russia being behind the crimes and loss of life, it is the Iraqi forces and their U.S.-led allies, who are ostensibly “fighting terrorism” and “defeating Daesh”.
It is no secret that the U.S. administration, led by President Donald Trump, and its allies want this battle over as quickly as possible so they can turn their attention to Raqqa in Syria and defeat Daesh in an epic “final battle”.
But this will not be possible until victory in Mosul is assured. The ongoing battle, as others have stated on countless occasions, is a brutal and long one. Unless the Iraqi forces and their allies reevaluate their tactics, many more civilian lives will be lost.
It seems both Baghdad and Washington will continue to forego common sense and human decency, as their insistence on “finishing the job” and defeating Daesh clearly takes priority over human lives.
What happened in 1991 and what happened last month both amount to war crimes. There had been sufficient knowledge that the strikes would result in civilian casualties, yet the powers that be nevertheless gave the green light.
Investigations have been launched by both parties -- the Iraqi armed forces and the U.S. However, one can expect little or no retribution for the perpetrators.
Day in, day out, across the Middle East, we see raids and airstrikes by the U.S. and its allies -- all carried out in the name of “The War on Terror” -- that do little more than fuel radicalization and terrorism, with innocent men, women and children paying the price.
Only a few months ago, we heard about a raid conducted in Yemen by U.S. Special Forces in which innocent blood was spilled. In Syria, the civil war has raged for six years with little or no intervention from the international community other than airstrikes targeting “terrorists” that have solved no problems at all.
Every couple of years we see an offensive by the Israeli army against the poor people of Gaza, who, put bluntly, live in an open-air prison -- again, in the name of targeting “terrorists”.
What is evident from history -- and from what we see daily -- is the international community’s complacency and a failure to bring those responsible for these crimes to account.
Investigations will be launched, debates will be had, but ultimately everything will be brushed under the carpet and forgotten.
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