U.S. Air Strikes in Syria

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On the morning of September 23, 2014, the US and a coalition of Arab dictatorships started to bomb targets inside Syria.

20140923 Syria Airstrikes.jpg

Legal Basis

Domestically the Obama administration claims its strikes in Syria are covered by 2001 laws allowing the president to strike people involved in the September 11 attacks. Internationally, they represented to the UN Security Council a justification of legitimate self-defense. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power offered the explanation "'States must be able to defend themselves' when 'the government of the state where the threat is located is unwilling or unable to prevent the use of its territory for such attacks'" [1]

It is unclear whether USA even attempted to get a UN authorization . Ms. Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, gave an interview to ABC on that matter, Obama needs no U.N. approval to order airstrikes in Syria. USA may gotten some cold shoulder at UN from Russia [2] (which modeled its Ukraine activities on previous USA activities in Libya and Syria, and was unhappy with sanctions as follow-up), However, it is not known that UN resolution would fail; what is known is that there were Lavrov-Kerry contacts, and Putin conversation with Ban Ki Moon, shortly before US-lead air strikes in Syria commenced. Drawback of not having UN authorization is that next time around, somebody else may try to do the same, and possibly in less justified circumstances.

UN: This year speech of President Obama is different in content from the speech last year. But nevertheless, Russia will support United Nations Security Council resolution on terrorists and foreign mercenaries, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Wednesday.

Civilian Casualties

Before Ber Mahli

Early mishaps, fall 2014

The raid hit Kuniko gas plant, which feeds a power station in Homs that provides several provinces with electricity and powers oil fields generators, the Observatory said.

May 1, Sarrin or Birmahle

Reports came in from the SOHR and others of a US-led coalition airstrike that killed dozens of civilians in Aleppo province. Reports vary, growing, from more than 20 to a widely-reported 52, from six families ABC news report mentions rebels also fired a rocket attack on civilians in a government-held area somewhere in Aleppo, perhaps to avenge the assassination of one of their commanders, "Badr Khaled Siraj, who is better known as Khaled Hayyani," SOHR's director Rami Abdelrahman said. This is troubling, coinciding with an air strike killing more civilians we know nothing about, at the same time. Consider, someone called these targets in. And Hayyani was known for - and criticized by the SOHR for - shelling civilian targets in government-held areas (example report, February). Hayyani is also referred to as the inventor of the "Hell Cannon" by pro-government sources (example report) The latest attack(s) could be an answer to the supposed elimination of a threat to government-secured civilians - that killing Hayyani won't stop the shelling, just cause more. It could be a sort of tribute to him.

ABC citing SOHR's Abdelrahman puts the coalition strike in "Birmahle." "Ein Arab: Srain" is the site where VDC records say 71 civilians were killed in coalition bombing, May 1. "Srain" probably means Sarrin on Wikimapia, due south of Ain Arab aka Kobane and just behind the Aleppo border. Birmahle might refer to the town just south of that, Malhah (Bir-Malhah). Both are on the Euphrates river in Aleppo Province, as all reports say. VDC lists one identified man and 70 mostly unidentified people (70 "Adult male" should mean all sex categories left blank, unknown - this is the default - there should be women and children here) from nine families, some related, from six clans total.

  • Jumah al-Shawakh Family 1 (13)
  • Ali al-Shawakh Family (15)
  • Eid al-Sleibi Family (10)
  • Sufeian Family (4 listed, 5 implied)
  • Hussain Jumaa al-Sleibi Family (5)
  • Mustafa al-Muhammad Ali (9)
  • Mahmoud al-Hussain al-Sleibi Family (4)
  • Shawakh al-Haj Bakour Family (6)
  • Jalal al-Sleibi Family (6)

All VDC info is open to question.

The government-reported attack killed 22 and injured 45 in a "government-held districts in the contested northern city of Aleppo" per this report, mentioning SOHR confirms at least 10 killed. ABC and other reports say the state media toll was 12 dead, 45 injured. The VDC lists no non-warplane shelling deaths in Aleppo so far in May: "regime" and coalition aerial bombing is all they report killing people. (month of April 3 to May 3 - to Aril 30 rocket and artillery shelling deaths are listed, most clearly blamed on the government, others just "shelling" - none blamed on rebels)

The Guardian reports the United States will look into the claims.

Major Curtis Kellogg, a spokesman for US Central Command, told the Associated Press there was no information to corroborate the Observatory’s claims. However, Kellogg said: “We take all allegations seriously and will look into them further.”
The US-led coalition earlier said its strikes near Kobani during that time destroyed seven Islamic State positions and one vehicle.
Later on Saturday, the US military said it had carried out 24 more strikes against Isis targets in Syria and Iraq.

In fact, considering the past reliability of SOHR and other activist-based reports about "regime" bombing attacks and other "regime" crimes that turned out to not be that, there is some cause for skepticism here. The evidence is what will make the actual truth of the matter more clear, as and if it becomes available.

The SOHR later adjusted the death toll upward to 64 civilians killed, including 50 women and children, in what it termed a "massacre," in a feature article on their website May 4. As speculated above, this was in "Ber Mahli village near the town of Seren in Aleppo," and there were 31 children killed. It says the attack came after the coalition got "information about a procession of IS vehicles in the village," and proclaims:

We in SOHR were shocked when we heard the denial of the U.S led coalition forces on this massacre, rather than starting a serious investigation to bring those responsible to justice and to compensate the survivors and the affected.


  • SOHR.com June 6, 2015 A family of 7, man and wife, 5 children, were all killed in another coalition strike in "the village of al- Dali located in east of the town of Serrin in northeast Aleppo." They cite multiple sources ("cross-cutting") but don't specify which ones. The SOHR says the total civilians killed in Syria by coalition strikes is now 148.
  • July 17, 2016: SOHR reports (via Press TV and Stripes, and from SOHR website) reports 21 civilians killed in the latest coalition strikes in Syria. 15 were killed in Manbej (areas in the northern outskirts of al-Hazwanah neighborhood), and 6 in a nearby town (al-Tokhar village north of the city). SOHR reports this makes 104 civilians killed just in the Manbij area since the end of May, this year (including 29 children, 16 women, 8 prisoners mentioned, 47 non-jailed men implied) the number of Syrian civilian citizens who were killed by the international coalition’s warplanes in the city of Manbij and its surroundings since the 31st of May 2016,

CENTCOM claims 22 anti-ISIS strikes on the 18th(via Sputnik), the first to be launched out of Incirlik air base after Turkish authorities tried to shut it down following the alleged coup attempt (power was cut to the base, but they're using internal generators, the base was searched, and a reported 8 Turkish officers or soldiers there were arrested for helping at least to re-fuel jets used in the alleged coup, according to Turkish authorities).

  • July 19: Reuters reports, again citing the SOHR, that on the following day, another 56 civilians were killed by suspected coalition airstrikes in Manbej, including 11 children. BBC reports the 56 is at least, and "an opposition activist network said 90 had died in Tokhar and nearby Hoshriya." So the 104 total figure is should be at least 160, or maybe 194, again just for June and July, 2016.
Heavy.com collects photos of wounded children carried
Report with photos and videos; (burial of bodies) those photos also appeared on twitter here

The Syrian Foreign Ministry blames US and French strikes for killing over 100 civilians around Manbij, in a letter to the UN. An analyst Marwa Osman decries claims of mistake or "collecting information," speaking to RT.

They’re still gathering information? How come they did an airstrike without the information? I am sorry but we are not idiots. ... What they did is a… retaliatory move, a fast move just to breed blood in the streets of Syria just to say to the French and the US public: “Look, we are fighting ISIS.”

How it was good strategy to deliberately target civilians just to claim a blow against ISIS is not explained. Perhaps the coalition felt no one would report the truth?

Ramadi, Iraq ?


  • 29 July, 2016. "US military says it may have killed more civilians in latest airstrike in Syria". The Guardian
A report with a gross video - Rusvesna , 29 July 2016.

Civilian Infrastructure

US Bases in Syrian Kurd region (Rojava)

A military source of the so-called "Syrian Democratic Forces" speaking to Kurdish news agency basnews claimed on July 24, 2016, that a US airbase 35 kilometers south of Kobane at the village of Sabit is "almost finished" (wikimapia has a marking with nothing to see). A second base is build near Ramelan in Hasakah province (wikimapia), the source claimed. The existence of that second base (but not the airfield) has been denied by US officials earlier "while satellite images showed the expansion", the basnews report says. The source said that US support for the SDF "has reached advanced levels" and the bases are meant to reduce dependency of the use of bases in Turkey.

ThisWhiteHouse Definitions

"The bizarro dictionary of war employed by this White House"[3]

  • Military adviser
    According to the Obama administration, the 1600 “military advisers” that have steadily been flowing in Iraq fall outside this definition, despite the fact that “military advisers” can be: embedded with Iraqi troops; carry weapons; fire their weapons if fired upon; and call in airstrikes, without directly engaging the enemy. It is a definition rejected by virtually every military expert.
    “Calling in airstrikes is just as much combat as firing a rifle at someone,” said John A. Nagl, a retired lieutenant colonel who served in a tank battalion in Iraq and helped write the Army’s counterinsurgency field manual. “What that guy really is doing is painting a house with a laser designator that results in that house being vaporized.”
    The American advisers are armed, and if they are shot at by the enemy, they are authorized to return fire. In a close combat advisory role in a city, experts said, the American troops would tell Iraqi commanders which house to hit, how much ammunition to use in an assault, and how to organize medical evacuation for their troops. [4]
  • Civilian:
    It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.[5]
  • An “imminent” threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take place in the immediate future. [6]
    "To translate: “imminent” can mean a lot of things … including “not imminent” "[3]
    So when you hear the words “imminent attack”, “civilians”, militants” or “ground troops” from now on, be careful: if the government says they’re not misleading you, it might only be because they’ve secretly changed the definition of “misleading”.[3]



  • How U.S. bombs ISIL in Syria - October 3, 2015
  • Why Russia is Serious About Fighting Terrorism and the US Isn’t - Maram Susli (Syrian Girl), New Eastern Outlook, October 20, 2015
  • Sinjar aftermath highlights Islamic State resilience in Iraq - Reuters, Dec 7, 2015
    "If a convoy of vehicles come out of an ISIS territory or staging ground towards one of the Peshmerga positions on Highway 47 then they're just going to bomb it," said the Kurdish security council source, referring to coalition aircraft. A local resident said civilians now felt it was much too dangerous to use the road.
    Yet with civilian and commercial traffic forced off Highway 47 and onto the same back roads used by Islamic State, the coalition will likely face the familiar challenge of striking the militants without killing bystanders.
    One driver, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had seen four or five trucks carrying fruit and vegetables destroyed by an air strike last week before entering Iraqi territory en route from Raqqa in Syria.
  • These Marines in Syria fired more artillery than any battalion since Vietnam, Navy Times, February 7, 2018
“In five months they fired 35,000 artillery rounds on ISIS targets, killing ISIS fighters by the dozens,” Troxell told Marine Corps Times during a roundtable discussion Jan. 23. “We needed them to put pressure on ISIS and we needed them to kill ISIS.” ... The Marines brought the M777 howitzers ― a 155mm gun. A standard artillery battery has roughly six guns and up to 150 Marines; a battalion would include up to 18 guns or three firing batteries. ... From June 2017 until Raqqa’s liberation in October, U.S. aircraft dropped just under 20,000 total munitions.