Led Coalition Accused Of 'Potential War Crimes' In Push To Reclaim Raqqa

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Reuters reporters in Raqqa during and after the campaign said that air strikes and fighting had caused massive destruction throughout the city, laying waste to entire districts.

"On the ground in Raqqa we witnessed a level of destruction comparable to anything we've seen in decades of covering the impact of wars".

"When so many civilians are killed in attack after attack, something is clearly wrong, and to make this tragedy worse, so many months later the incidents have not been investigated", said Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International.

"They are literally judging us as guilty until proven innocent". They would see first-hand our enemy using civilian non-combatants as shields against the Coalition in order to sadistically claim that the Coalition is deliberately "killing" civilians. Hashish said that she and her children eventually managed to escape through a minefield "by walking over the blood of those who were blown up as they tried to flee ahead of us".

The accounts of four discrete families form the pillars of the report, and their stories paint a scene of despair for the civilians in Raqqa, both in those final months of war and now in their aftermath.

Amnesty International said it has found evidence air strikes by a US-led coalition were "potential war crimes".

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The coalition reports do not contain specific details about the exact date, time and location of the strikes. Thirty-nine were killed from a single family - nearly all of them killed by coalition air strikes.

Middle East Researcher at Amnesty International Benjamin Walsby has questioned why the coalition felt the need to bomb the city in ruins if "the coalition and their SDF allies were ultimately going to grant IS fighters safe passage and impunity".

"We were naive. By the time we had realised how risky it had become everywhere, it was too late".

"As far as how do we know how many civilians were killed, I am just being honest, no one will ever know", Veale said in a briefing at the Pentagon by video link from Baghdad. "They never asked us for a comment, an interview or a courtesy check of the draft", Veale said.

About 90 percent of the airstrikes were carried out by USA forces, and US military officials called the operation "the most precise air campaign in history", with Army Sergeant Major John Wayne Troxell bragging that "mortars, artillery, rockets, Hellfires, armed drones", rained down on Raqqa "every minute of every hour".

"Given that standard artillery shells fired from an M777 howitzer have an average margin of error of over 100m, launching so many of these shells into a city where civilians were trapped in every neighborhood posed an unacceptable risk to civilians", Amnesty International responded.

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It also urged the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities in maintaining global peace and security, immediately stop the massacres being perpetrated by the US-led alliance against Syrian civilians, put an end to the aggressive and illegal presence of United States and other foreign forces on Syrian soil, and stop U.S. plans aimed at supporting terrorism in Syria.

Commenting on the role of the British forces in the liberation of Raqqa, the director of Amnesty UK said: "Having conducted more than 200 airstrikes in Raqqa, the UK needs to be able to show that its targeting was proportionate and that it took proper measures to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties in its joint operations with the USA and others".

He said his biggest objection was the prima facie argument that the United States had violated global law. "Even precision weapons are only as precise as their choice of targets", Rovera said.

In its monthly casualty reports, the coalition has acknowledged responsibility for 32 civilian deaths in Raqqa between June and October, while saying it is still investigating open cases.

He said there are "rigorous efforts and intelligence gathering" before any strike to "effectively destroy IS while minimising harm on civilian populations".

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