The May airstrike demolishing Gaza’s al-Jalaa building will be investigated by the ICC

On 3 March 2021, the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor announced the opening of a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories in the state of Palestine.

The Middle East Monitor (MEM)  thinks that the ICC decision gives some reason to believe that ‘accountability is looming on the horizon’. Palestinians also hope that Israel’s impunity will end and that its extremist government and illegal settlers will no longer be allowed to commit such acts across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction and says it is capable of investigating any possible wrongdoing by its army. It asserts that the investigation  is unfair and politically motivated.

America’s Associated Press (AP) has called on Israel to make public the evidence it used to justify the May bombing of the al-Jalaa building

At the end of October, speaking at a conference hosted by Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies about the importance of public perception during military conflicts. Maj. Gen.(res.) Nitzan Alon, the former head of IDF Operations admitted:

“Bringing down the tower with the AP offices was equivalent to a self-inflicted ‘public relations terror attack’ and an own goal, in our view. Not everyone in the IDF believes this, but I am convinced that this was a mistake. The operational benefit was not worth the damage that it caused diplomatically and in terms of perception”.

Palestinians inspect their destroyed houses following overnight Israeli air strikes in town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, in May 2021

Though due to a warning the building was evacuated and no lives were lost, the case for a war crime could cite the further long-term economic damage done by the May attacks. Many jobs were lost with the closure of companies sited in the building and many families were displaced. Human Rights Watch pointed out that there will be serious, long-lasting economic damage to the Palestinians who lived, worked, shopped, or benefited from businesses based there .

 

 

 

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Airstrike was a “tragic mistake”: Gen. Frank McKenzie (US Central Command)

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement late Friday that the United States will make “condolence payments” to families of Afghan civilians killed by mistake in U.S. drone strike on August 29. File photo courtesy the U.S. Department of Defense.

CNN reports that Pentagon press secretary John Kirby (above) said in a statement last week that a senior Pentagon official held a virtual meeting about a potential compensation payment for the family of Zamarai Ahmadi, an Afghan civilian who was one of 10 people killed in a US drone strike in late August. Ahmadi’s two year old niece, Malika, as well as her uncle, her seven cousins, and another child were killed in the strike.

The discussion with Steven Kwon (right), founder and head of Nutrition and Education International, the US non-profit charity that employed Ahmadi, focused on a compensation payment for his family and their desire to relocate to the United States. Kirby said no formal agreement has been reached at this stage.

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, said that the strike was a tragic mistake and that Mr. Ahmadi and others who were killed were innocent victims who bore no blame and were not affiliated with ISIS-K or threats to US forces.”

The Defense Department, which handles compensation payments through its regional combatant commands, has not been able to speak directly with Ahmadi’s family because there are no US troops in Afghanistan to lead the discussion.

Also complicating the conversation is the family’s desire to relocate to the United States, a decision handled by the State Department, not the Pentagon. At the end of September, Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would support the relocation of the family to the United States. Kahl reiterated that support during the meeting with Kwon.

Dr. Kwon told Mr. Ahmadi’s story of working with NEI over many years, providing care and lifesaving assistance for people facing high mortality rates in Afghanistan. NEI’s Dr. Kwon’s pledge to honour the memory of Ahmadi (left) and his family members and others who were killed in the strike,” Kirby said.

Ahmadi was one of 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, killed in a drone strike during the final days of the US evacuation and withdrawal from Afghanistan. Initially, the Pentagon defended the strike, pointing to secondary explosions as proof that there was explosive material in Ahmadi’s car.

Nearly three weeks later, the leader of US Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, admitted that the strike was a “tragic mistake” following an investigation into the facts and circumstances around the strike, led by Lt. Gen. Sami Said, Inspector General of the Department of the Air Force.

This is just one of hundreds of tragic ‘mistakes’ – usually downplayed or  denied.

What can justify such losses of human life?

 

 

 

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Afghanistan: Could Pakistani drones hit the Panjshir Valley?

 

A reader in Wales drew attention to this BBC article

Claims have emerged that in recent days Pakistani drones have been used to help the Taliban, by targeting anti-Taliban positions.

One of the sources was an Afghan journalist, Tajuddin Soroush, who says he was told by Panjshir Governor Kamaluddin Nizami, “that Pakistan had bombed the Panjshir valley in Afghanistan with drones.”

Iranian and Indian media have had reports alleging Pakistani involvement, including in some cases using misleading photos said to show Pakistani military hardware.

The claims have been dismissed by Pakistan, as well as by the Taliban. A spokesman for the Pakistani armed forces, General Babar Iftikhar, told the BBC they were “complete lies” and called it “irrational propaganda from India”.

“Pakistan has nothing to do with what is happening inside Afghanistan, be it Panjshir or anywhere else.”

The full article with details of Pakistan’s drone-manufacturing capability may be read here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/58480299

 

 

 

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Growing opposition to the allied airstrikes in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq

The UK is supporting US airstrikes in Yemen, Syria and Iraq which are killing civilians. The Saudi-led coalition appears to be responsible for 67% of reported civilian casualties in the war in Yemen.

ReliefWeb reports that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, assisted by the UK and US militaries, appear to be responsible for 67% of reported civilian casualties in the war in Yemen, and are the cause of the majority of explosive violence against children.

Between 2015 and 2020, at least 3,153 children have died in Yemen and 5,660 children have been injured, according to a report by UNICEF. On average, 50 children are killed and 90 are wounded or permanently disabled each month. The vast majority are harmed by explosive weapons with wide area effects.

20 March 2021 – “A growing wave of violence across Yemen continues to take a devastating toll on children, with eight children confirmed killed and 33 more injured in a series of attacks since the beginning of the month*.

More than 100 international human rights organisations have called on US President Joe Biden to stop using drone attacks and air strikes outside of recognised battlefields. 

They made the call in a letter penned on Thursday in response to recent missile strikes on targets in Syria and Iraq, at the end of June, in which a child and three civilians were killed along with four anti-Isis fighters. Iraq is “studying all legal options” after this attack which has been condemned by regional leaders and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, as a “blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi national security”.

The American Civil Liberties Union published the letter and its signatoriesan extract follows:

Friendly fire 

NBC reports that U.S. forces carried out airstrikes earlier this year against the same Iran-backed militias that the Pentagon said were behind a rocket attack in northern Iraq. The rocket attack killed a Filipino contractor working with an American-led military coalition and injured six people, including a Louisiana National Guard soldier and four American contractors.

The Pentagon press secretary John Kirby called these air strikes in Iraq and Syria an act of self-defence, justified to the US public – and the world – by the September 11 2001 al-Qaida attack on New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

In July 2016, the Times reported that the Obama administration released a document, compiled by US investigators Dana Lesemann and Michael Jacobson, known as “File 17”, which contains a list naming three dozen people, including the suspected Saudi intelligence officers attached to Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Washington, D.C. which connects Saudi Arabia to the hijackers

Newsweek has found a continuing conspiracy of silence among high former U.S. and Saudi officials about the attacks. “9/11 changed the whole world.” It not only led to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the fracturing of the Middle East and the global growth of Islamic militantism.

As Professor Garcia has written, Britain should end foreign military adventures forthwith and address its social, economic and environmental challenges.  Many other voices are urging governments to stop spending billions of dollars on weapons and protect citizens from the real threats they face.

 

 

 

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Britain’s shame: supplying components enabling Turkey to bomb its own citizens

Link: https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2021/05/28/britains-shame-supplying-a-crucial-component-enabling-turkey-to-bomb-its-own-citizens

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Israeli air strikes on eastern Syria add 57 to the 380,000+ killed during the Syrian conflict

An article released by Agence France-Presse in Beirut and circulated to the world-wide media earlier this montd, said that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that Israeli air strikes on eastern Syria killed 57 Syrian army forces and allied Iran-backed fighters.

An Israeli army spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by AFP. Israel rarely acknowledges individual strikes but has done so when responding to what it describes as aggression inside Israeli territory.

Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers which revealed the US government had lied to the American public about the Vietnam war, had warned that Donald Trump and Israel could increase attacks against Iran and its regional allies in the final days of the US president’s tenure. Trump’s administration had given unprecedented US support to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Nicholas Heras, of the Institute of the Study of War said that in the dying days of the Trump administration, Netanyahu had been trying to do as much damage as possible to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Syria before Biden took office.

The war in Syria has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions.

 

 

 

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Seek accountability for the deaths of the innocent men, women and children unwittingly caught up in wars the west has chosen to fight

For many years, ordinary men, women and children, at work at home and at school or in hospital are being killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and other countries, ignored by the mainstream ‘news’ media which prefers to feed the public with trivia about the Royal family and celebrities often featured in the Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’ (short section, right). 

Ten years ago AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH described the statistics for civilian deaths caused by pro-Government forces in Afghanistan as ‘simply appalling’:

“UN figures show that between January 2006-October 2009 2,139 civilians died in such circumstances (which is over 50% of the total killed by insurgents during the same period!). The number injured by NATO and its allies is not recorded, though it is likely to considerably outweigh the numbers of those killed”.

The author, Steve Beauchampé, pointed out that whilst fatalities and injuries amongst NATO forces are assiduously compiled and regularly reported in the British media, the coalition does not appear concerned enough to monitor the number of civilians they kill.

These deaths and injuries are ‘diminished and dismissed as collateral damage, the inevitable consequences of war’.

Many are killed by missile strikes; weapons launched from fighter planes, or increasingly from unmanned ‘Drone’ aircraft, the person who terminated or shattered their lives being safely ensconced in front of a computer screen in a US military base 8,000 miles away in Nevada, never seeing or hearing their mutilated victims or the effects of their actions, driving home to their family once their working day is over.

Nowhere is the description of the management of modern warfare better illustrated than in Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright’s account of his two months spent with US Marines during the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003 shows graphically how there are both competent and incompetent soldiers at all levels of the military hierarchy. Some were fearless and heroic, a credit to their country, some were way out of their depth, yet their judgments often meant the difference between life and death for those Iraqi civilians they encountered.

In Iraq as a whole, a substantial number of civilians (more than the current total for Afghanistan) perished at the hands of the very people who claimed to be their liberators.

Yet it seems few people of importance or influence in the west take the situation anything like seriously enough – certainly not politicians, newspaper editors nor radio or television news producers. Indeed one of the US’s first acts after invading Iraq was to arrange for the interim government they installed to grant immunity from prosecution for American military personnel for atrocities, including:

  • families executed in cars when the driver failed to stop quickly enough at checkpoints;
  • wedding parties blown up following inaccurate intelligence reports,
  • houses, bomb shelters, educational establishments and even hospitals blasted to kingdom come

Civilian casualties are always high in military conflicts (usually higher than those suffered by the armed forces) and NATO‘s record is no worse than that of other armies in this regard. But there must be a line of accountability, especially in a world where those responsible for the killings claim such technical superiority and absolute moral authority.

If we can hold inquiries and apportion blame over the deaths of British service personnel then the least we can do is seek accountability for the killings by NATO forces of those innocent men, women and children unwittingly caught up in wars that the west chose to fight.

Or do their lives count for less?

 

 

 

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Britain’s role in the death & injury of Yemeni civilians

Above: typical of the destruction wrought by coalition air strikes

July – December 2020

After taking the UK government to court over its arms sales to the Saudis, the latest CAAT newsletter (Issue 258 Winter 2020) recalls that in July 2020 the Government said that it had made the required assessment as to “whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of IHL in the past, during the Yemen conflict” and its conclusion is that these are ‘isolated incidents’.

Liz Truss MP, secretary of state for international trade, announced that weapon sales to Saudi Arabia would resume despite concerns over the potential for further atrocities in Yemen.

Lawyers representing CAAT wrote to the UK government seeking urgent answers on this decision and began to consider further legal action.

Bill Briggs reported in August that twenty children had been killed in Yemen since the UK government resumed arms sales to Saudi Arabia. There was an escalation in violence this year, with civilian casualties trebling from May to June, according to the Yemen Data Project.

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: “Amid food shortages and a complete breakdown of the economy in Yemen, children are being massacred and war crimes have undoubtedly been committed by both sides.

In September, Sky News reported on a potential war crime in northern Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by the US and Britain.

In Alex Crawford’s detailed and illustrated account of evidence given by eye-witnesses to a team visiting Yemen, several incidents were reported. In one, nine people died – six of them were children. There were no men amongst the dead or injured and only three survivors – a young mother (right) who was breastfeeding her baby son and a teenage boy.

A coalition spokesman said they were investigating whether this was an “accidental loss of civilian life” whilst targeting Houthi leaders and fighters.

Human rights investigators building up a dossier of potential war crimes have got details of at least 500 attacks by the coalition where civilians have been the victims. Amongst them are five different attacks which they say they’ve linked to the British authorities or British companies.

The September United Nations report said countries arming parties involved in the conflict could be “aiding and assisting” war crimes

The report accused parties to the conflict of “a consistent pattern of harm to civilians” and “documented patterns of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law” over the course of the war. It found that Houthi militia and support from the UK and others “may amount to ‘aiding and assisting’ internationally wrongful acts in contravention of international law.”

In October a second legal challenge was mounted by CAAT; the campaigners filed for a judicial review of the UK government’s decision to renew arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Read more here.

And when G20 leaders gathered online at the end of November for their annual summit, incredibly, it was hosted by Saudi Arabia, the country that is arguably more responsible for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis than any other.

Over the past five and a half years Saudi Arabia has bombed school buses, funerals and hospitals in Yemen. As the result of this brutal war between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi militia, four out of five Yemenis now urgently need humanitarian assistance.

Bill Nighy wrote an article in the Times in November (paywall)

On the 3rd of December a UN Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen briefed the UN Security Council. “A Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land” – urged an end to impunity in a conflict with no clean hands, and the referral by the UN Security Council of the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court.

 

 

 

 

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10th Anniversary on-line event ‘Drone Warfare: Today, Tomorrow, Forever?’ – Oct 27

Gill Hurle of MAW has forwarded news of this event.

——– Forwarded Message from Chris Cole of Drone Wars UK ——–

We are holding an online event ‘Drone Warfare: Today, Tomorrow, Forever?’ to examine the use of armed drones and where campaigners should be focusing their efforts over the coming years.

We are delighted to be joined by:

* Aditi Gupta of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones

* Rachel Stohl from the Washington-based Stimson Center

* Ella Knight of Amnesty International

* Elke Schwarz from Queen Mary’s, University of London

who will address a number of issues including increasing proliferation, autonomy and civilian harm.

Please do join us on 27 October at 7pm.  For more details and to book a free tickets please see: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/drone-warfare-today-tomorrow-forever-tickets-124296689745

Chris Cole, <chris@dronewars.net>

Drone Wars UK, Peace House, 19 Paradise Street, Oxford OX1 1LD

01865 243688

07960 811437


 

 

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The Drone Wars website

Whereas this Airstrikes site has just reported on drone killings and latterly on airstrikes, the Drone Wars site analyses in detail the impact and (im)morality of the use of armed drones.

Summarised here are some of the points made in detail on a page on the Drone Wars website

Lowering the threshold for the use of force

Politicians know that the public do not like to see young men and women sent overseas to fight in wars which often have remote and unclear aims.  Potential TV footage of grieving families awaiting funeral corteges (opposite, casualties in Afghanistan) has been a definite restraint on political leaders weighing up the option of military intervention.

Take away that potential political cost, however, by using unmanned systems, and it makes it much easier – perhaps too easy – for politicians to opt for a quick, short-term ‘fix’ of ‘taking out the bad guys’ rather than engaging in the often difficult and long-term work of solving the root causes of conflicts through diplomatic and political means.

Transferring the risk and cost of war from soldiers to civilians

Despite claims of the defence industry and advocates of drone warfare, it is simply not possible to know precisely what is happening on the ground from thousands of miles away.  While the UK claims, for example, that only one civilian was killed in the thousands of British air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria, journalist and casualty recording organisations have reported thousands of deaths in Coalition airstrikes.

The use of ‘targeted killing’

The law of war is the component of international law that regulates the conditions for war (jus ad bellum) and the conduct of warring parties.

Legal scholars define targeted killing (undertaken by United States, Israel and the UK) as the deliberate, premeditated killing of selected individuals by a state who are not in their custody.  Where the Law of War applies, targeted killing of combatants may be legal, but where war has not been declared it may only be used to save human life that is in imminent danger.

In 2016 The Joint Human Rights Committee released a report into the use of armed drones for targeted killing which focussed on the wider legal issues around the policy of targeted killing, not the individual cases which have shocked many.

Philip Alston the former Special Rapporteur on extra judicial killing suggested that the physical distance between those operating armed drones and the target makes that act of killing much easier. The physical distance induces a kind of psychological ‘distancing’, though it is widely reported that some drone pilots are suffering from post-traumatic stress from having to see the results of their strikes.

The myth of ‘precision’

Drones permit, we are told, pin-point accurate air strikes that kill the target while leaving the innocent untouched. The reality is that there is no such thing as a guaranteed accurate airstrike. Even under test conditions, only 50% of weapons are expected to hit within their ‘circular error of probability’.

Ushering in permanent war?

Drones are enabling states to carry out attacks with seemingly little reference to international law norms. US law professor Rosa Brooks argued in a disturbing article in Foreign Policy that ‘there’s no such thing as peacetime’ anymore. “Since 9/11,” she writes “it has become virtually impossible to draw a clear distinction between war and not-war.”

As Drone Wars concludes: “The slide towards forever war must be rejected and resisted. It is incumbent on us all, citizen, politician, military officer, to work towards global peace and security, not permanent warfare”.

Further reading on the Drone Wars website:

Drones do ‘lower threshold for use of lethal force’ academic study finds

“Thinking war is bloodless is a mistake.” Talking drones & remote war with Air Marshall Bagwell

Parliamentary Committee release report into drones and targeted killing

https://dronewars.net/the-danger-of-drones/

“Here’s their actual stories, make of them what you will.” Dr Peter Lee on ‘Britain’s Reaper Force’

Are we being misguided about precision strike?

 

 

 

 

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