More civilians have been killed by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria in the past four weeks than in any other month since operations began in 2014, the U.K.-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday.
The coalition has pursued an increasingly aggressive air campaign in 2017 in its fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Most recently, the coalition has focused a great deal of firepower on the heavily contested Syrian governorates and cities of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
According to both the U.N. and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that firepower has devastated civilians. Between May 23 and June 23, the monitor says an astounding 472 civilians were killed in airstrikes in the two governorates. Of those, 137 were reportedly children.
The independent monitor says it was the single highest 30-day civilian death toll involving coalition strikes since the U.S.-led operation began in 2014. The record had previously been set just the month before at 225.
In an emailed statement to AFP, the coalition said its troops “work diligently and deliberately to be precise” in their air strikes.
“Our goal is always for zero civilian casualties,” the statement said.
Ninety-seven percent of coalition strikes in Syria are carried out by U.S. aircraft, according to Airwars, an independent monitoring group that compiles airstrike data. The aerial bombardment has now claimed nearly 2,000 civilian lives, more than a fifth of which have been children, according to Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A U.N. investigation that came to light last week found that more than 300 civilians had been killed in the city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, since March.
Now in its seventh year, the brutal Syrian civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than 470,000 people, according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research. Millions more of have displaced, resulting in a refugee crisis that continues to destabilize the region and the world.