By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
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Western bombs slaughter civilians in Raqqa

This article is over 6 years, 8 months old
Issue 2569
A fragment of one of the bombs that killed 14 people on a farm in northwest Raqqa
A fragment of one of the bombs that killed 14 people on a farm in northwest Raqqa (Pic: Amnesty International)

The Western-backed offensive to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Isis has killed “hundreds of civilians”.

A report by Amnesty International released last week documents 95 cases of civilians killed by the US-led coalition and its ally the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

These are out of 146 civilian deaths due to the coalition and SDF examined by Amnesty, including 60 children and 42 women.

These are only “a small sample of a much wider pattern”.

Air raids have destroyed homes and bomb shelters where civilians have been hiding. Artillery pounds the city.

Ahmad Mahmoud was injured after a barrage of artillery shells fell on the Daraiya neighbourhood in June. “Artillery shells are hitting everywhere, entire streets. It is indiscriminate shelling and kills a lot of civilians,” he told Amnesty.

Another Daraiya resident, Mohammed, said, “Whether you live or die depends on luck because you don’t know where the next shell will strike, so you don’t know where to run”.

Many Syrian civilians try to flee the carnage. But the main routes all cross the Euphrates river, where anything crossing is gunned down by US-backed forces.

As Lieutenant General Stephen J Townsend boasted, “We shoot every boat we find. If you want to get out of Raqqa right now, you’ve got to build a poncho raft.”


Aziz was angry about the deaths of his relatives who had fled the city to seek safety on a farm in northwest Raqqa only for it to be destroyed by airstrikes.

The raid killed 14 people, including eight women and five children, and severely wounded two other children.

“My sisters, my mother, my nephews and nieces, were bombed to shreds for no reason at all,” Aziz told Amnesty. “Don’t they keep watch over their targets before they bomb? If they had they would have known that there were only women and children there.”

Isis captured Raqqa for its “capital” in January 2014.

The Syrian regime, backed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, has also been pounding the areas south of Raqqa. It uses cluster bombs that kill indiscriminately.

The report documents 30 deaths from regime bombs.

Sections of the mainstream media have highlighted this violence while ignoring the consequences of Western bombing.

None of the sides have ordinary Syrians’ interests at heart. Syria is being torn apart by rival world imperialist and regional powers jockeying for position.

The US, Britain and their allies, weakened by defeat in Iraq and bogged down in Afghanistan, are desperate not to lose control of the Middle East.

The US’s reliance on coalitions rather than invading with its own troops gives its allies more room to assert their own interests, including at its expense.

Meanwhile, Russia is backing dictator Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime for access to strategic assets—in particular, naval access to the Mediterranean.

As the imperialist powers inflict more horror onto Syrians, we have to oppose the wars waged by Donald Trump and his allies—including in the British government.

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