“The Yellow Assault”
SNHR has released a report entitled: “The Yellow Assault” which tackles the most notable violations in Raqqa governorate between November 6, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
The report sheds light on the historical context in Raqqa governorate since it was taken over by ISIS on January 12, 2014, and then the Kurdish-majority SDF’s “Euphrates’s Wrath” on November 6, 2017 until the encompass on Raqqa city in late-June 2017.
The report says that in spite of ISIS’s cruelty and brutality which was felt by the Syrian people, in general, and the residents of Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zour governorates, in particular, not a single eyewitness or resident of the ones that SNHR contacts expressed optimism in SDF, due to the fact that it was founded by a singular portion of the Syrian people through a party that dominated the Kurdish existence within the Syrian people, which was, as it is commonly known, founded by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that is branded as a terrorist party by USA.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, adds:
“The killing and destruction, and the violations that resulted from all that, and the careless and apologetic behavior of the forces that perpetrated these violations, in addition to the lack of a local, popular faction, are among the most significant factors that will resurrect ISIS even if a military victory was achieved, as the elements and dynamics for an incarnation of ISIS do still exist. These elements must be addressed in parallel with a military war.”
The report draws upon the daily documentation and monitoring by SNHR’s team that is conducted routinely on a daily basis, and secondly, on accounts from survivors, eyewitnesses, and local media activists that we spoke with via phone and social media. Also, we have analyzed a large number of the videos and pictures that we found online, or were sent to us by local activists via e-mail, Skype, or social media. Some of the media published by local activists showed pictures of victims and burnt children victims, and a huge destruction in the infrastructure, and vital civilian facilities, while other pictures showed explosions of white phosphorus munition in the sky of Raqqa.
The report notes that the attacks included in this report in which air warfare was used were by international coalition forces, whereas artillery attacks entail a joint responsibility, considering that international coalition forces supplied SDF with these weapons, and some of these attacks saw a joint presence for forces during the artillery shelling. As such, we assigned responsibility in these attacks to SDF without relieving international coalition forces of the responsibility as they were, firstly, the party that supplied weaponry, and secondly due to the fact that SDF are supported and directed by international coalition forces.
The report adds that International coalition forces and SDF haven’t distinguished between civilians and fighters in many of the attacks, and haven’t considered the principle of proportionality in the use of force. Therefore, many of the attacks constituted war crimes. Moreover, we didn’t monitor any incidents were the attacking parties issued a warning for the civilians prior to the attack as the international humanitarian law requires.
The report outlines the most notable violations by the conflicting parties in the battle of Raqqa including killing, arrest, and targeting vital civilian facilities.
The report documents the killing of no less than 1400 civilians, including 308 children and 203 women (adult female), in Raqqa governorate – 731 civilians were killed by international coalition forces, including 210 children and 139 women, 164 civilians were killed by SDF, including 31 children and 31 women, and 505 were killed by ISIS, including 67 children and 33 women. Also, the report, records that international coalition forces perpetrated 53 massacres, while SDF and ISIS perpetrated four and six massacres respectively.
The report says that there have been 90 incidents of attack on vital civilian facilities including 90 by international coalition forces, whereas SDF were responsible for six incidents of attack on vital civilian facilities, and ISIS were responsible for 11.
According to the report, no less than 504 individuals were arrested, including five children and five women, in the period of time covered by the report. Of those, 117 were arrested by SDF, while the remaining 387 were arrested by ISIS.
The report stresses that the bombardment operations included in this report were a disproportionate, indiscriminate bombardments that constitute an explicit violation of the international humanitarian law. The crimes of indiscriminate killing qualify as war crimes.
Also, the report says that he incidents that involved shelling by international coalition forces and SDF have resulted in collateral damages that included civilian casualties, injuries, and serious damages to civilian objects. There are strong indicators suggesting that the damage was too excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.
According to the report, ISIS perpetrated widespread violations of the international humanitarian law against the residents living in its area of control including killing, arrest, and torture. We also recorded that the group barred residents from fleeing its area of control, in order to use them as protection and human shields.
The report calls on the International coalition forces have to respect the international humanitarian law and the customary international law, and take responsibility for the legal ramifications of the violations in these incidents. Also, international coalition forces need to make every effort to avoid a reoccurrence.
The report also stresses that international coalition forces have to unequivocally confess that some of the bombardment operations resulted in killing innocent civilians. Denying this by government won’t make much of a difference as the documented human rights reports and residents’ account blatantly expose these crimes. Instead, these states should work on launching serious investigations as soon as possible and compensate the victims and people who were affected and apologize to them.
Lastly, the report calls on the SDF-supporting states have to apply pressure on the group in order to cease all their offensives in all of the areas and towns they control, and start working on establishing local councils from the local community to govern these areas in a civil manner.