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10 Nov, 2016 21:07

Pentagon acknowledges just 5-10% percent of actual civilian casualties in Syria – Amnesty to RT

The Pentagon’s conclusion that 119 deaths have resulted from US-led coalition strikes in Syria and Iraq represents only 5 or 10 percent of the actual civilian death toll in those countries, Neil Sammonds, an Amnesty International researcher focusing on Syria, told RT.

In the latest incident not included in the official tally, at least 23 people, including seven children and nine women, were killed after the US-led anti-terrorist coalition bombed the village of Heisha in rural Raqqa on Tuesday, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces said in a statement.

While condemning the “horrific incident” the rebel group, supported by the West, called on the US coalition to stop “these repeated incidents” in which civilian areas were bombed.

“The Coalition reiterates calls for a thorough investigation into such incidents and for reviewing the rules procedure of operations against ISIS and holding accountable those responsible,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, US Central Command spokesman, Major Josh Jacques, announced that the US anti-terrorist campaign had led to the deaths of 119 civilians since airstrikes began in 2014. A report released on the same day stated that 64 civilians had been killed and eight others injured in Syria between November 20, 2015 and September 10, 2016.

“We appreciate, to some extent, that the US authorities have come forward and acknowledged number of civilian deaths. We do… feel that it’s pretty insignificant, given the amount of killings, which they’ve likely caused,” Sammonds said, commenting on the Pentagon’s figures.

“Syrian human rights organizations have documented, at least, 650 civilian deaths,” he said, adding that Amnesty, on its part, “looked in detail at 11 cases, in which we believe 300 civilians were killed. And that’s in Syria alone."

“With them having now announced something like this, like 119 civilians were killed across the two countries, that’s ... perhaps 10 or 5 percent of the true civilian death toll from the US-led coalition attacks,” the researcher said.

Sammonds was skeptical about US claims that none of the 24 coalition strikes, in which civilians were killed contradicted the Law of Armed Conflict.

“They haven’t made public on what grounds they’ve found that. We would urge them to make this information public because we couldn’t second that at the moment. And we still have a lot of concerns that many of their attacks in those countries (Syria and Iraq) have likely violated international humanitarian law,” he said.

The Amnesty representative blamed the Pentagon for “failing to adequately assess the intelligence that they’re being provided” and not doing enough to keep the population out of harm’s way.

“Often, when an IS [Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL] target was hit or missed more could’ve been done to make sure the civilians has left the area beforehand. Greater checks could’ve been done to make sure that civilians were no longer actually there. In certain circumstances warnings could’ve been given to civilians on the understanding that they should be allowed to return if they want to,” he said.

According to Sammonds, Amnesty presented its own research on the civilian death toll resulting from coalition strikes to US officials six months ago.

“We’re a little bit disappointed that … we still have no direct response,” he said.

READ MORE: US-led coalition killed 300 Syrian civilians in 11 probed strikes – Amnesty

“None of the actual 11 incidents that we included [in our report] were in those 24 incidents mentioned in the latest information from the Pentagon. We know that the US authorities are using a more external information channels to try to corroborate on civilian casualties allegations,” he added.

READ MORE: 'End unlawful attacks in western Aleppo' – Amnesty Intl to armed opposition groups in Syria

The researcher also said that acknowledging the civilian casualties won’t be enough, and urged Washington to “try to pay some kind of compensation to families and victims where people have been killed or civilian infrastructure severely damaged.”