The independent U.K.-based monitor group Airwars has reported between 179 and 314 civilian deaths in the West Mosul neighborhoods of Zanjili, Shifa and Borsa so far this month, with hundreds more civilians killed in incidents that could not definitively be attributed to the coalition or IS.
Some 100,000 Mosul residents remain trapped in the embattled city, where around 300 IS die-hards are fiercely resisting the coalition advance. Bruno Geddo, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq, said on Friday that “these civilians are basically held as human shields in the Old City.”
There is hope for Mosul residents that the horror they have long endured will soon end as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a fresh offensive to capture Old Mosul over the weekend. “This is the final chapter,” Counter Terrorism Commander Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Assadi said on Iraqi state television on Sunday. But al-Assadi added that the house-to-house fighting in crowded urban quarters is no “easy task.”
While Iraqi and U.S. commanders see light at the end of the tunnel, Mosul residents are seeing intensified death and destruction. In one of the deadliest reported series of attacks, heavy shelling and air strikes in several Old Mosul neighborhoods on June 11 killed as many as 80 or more civilians, mostly women and children according to local media reports. As many as 80 civilians were also killed by air strikes and shelling in the heavily-bombed Zanjili neighborhood of West Mosul on June 8, according to Iraqi Spring Media Center. Fifty civilians were reportedly killed when a home in the besieged Shifa neighborhood was bombed on June 13, while another 20 to 33 civilians reportedly died the same day in separate attacks in the same neighborhood. The previous day, a dozen civilians all from the same family reportedly died in what was likely a U.S. air strike on their home in the Borsa neighborhood of West Mosul.
Women, children and the elderly have been disproportionately killed in many coalition strikes. On June 1, air and artillery strikes on Zanjili killed at least 20 people, mostly women and children. On June 18, local media reported 18 civilians from four families died when coalition warplanes bombed their homes in the Borsa neighborhood.
Hundreds of Mosul civilians have also been killed by IS fighters, who often target those trying to flee its shrinking area of control. IS has also been widely accused of using civilians as human shields.
According to Airwars, between 10,883 and 16,100 Iraqi and Syrian civilians have reportedly died in coalition bombing since the United States and some of its allies launched their air war against IS in August 2014. Civilian deaths have recently spiked as coalition forces fiercely fight to capture Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital in Syria. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” IS and “take out their families” — a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Since taking office, Trump, who has also loosened rules of engagement meant to protect civilians in the ongoing U.S.-led war against Islamist terrorism, has presided over some of the deadliest U.S. air strikes in modern history, including the March 17 U.S. bombing of an apartment building in the crowded al-Jadida neighborhood of West Mosul in which nearly 300 people died.
United Nations war crimes investigators recently condemned what one called the “staggering loss of civilian lives” in the “excessive” bombing campaign. The Trump administration has been accused of ignoring the hundreds of men, women and children killed in recent months, with Defense Secretary James Mattis recently stating that more innocent people will die, and dismissing civilian casualties as “a fact of life.”
Estimates of the number of people killed as a result of the U.S.-led invasion and eight-year occupation of Iraq, and the subsequent war on IS following the initial withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops, range from the low hundreds of thousands to over a million. Since the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan that ended World War II, the U.S. military has killed more innocent foreign civilians than any other armed force on Earth, by far.