Target: General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)
Goal: Launch an assessment regarding responsibility for civilian casualties in Syria after an airstrike led by the U.S. killed at least 20.
Six women and a child were among the 20 civilians that were killed when a Syrian village held by the Islamic State was raided in an attack backed by the United States. Thirty others were injured in the attack, reports from the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say.
According to the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), about 200 families have fled the village al-Heisha. The village is about 25 miles north of Raqqa – a stronghold of the so-called Islamic State (IS) that the SDF has been trying to recapture. The SDF is a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by the United States, and while a coalition spokesperson has confirmed that it conducted strikes in the area, the official position is that “more specific information is needed to conclusively determine responsibility” for the deaths of civilians.
The Syrian Observatory reports that since the start of coalition air strikes in Syria, at least 680 civilians have been killed, including 169 children. However, the SDF has only accepted responsibility for 55 of the deaths that occurred in Syria and neighboring Iraq in that two-year span. According to one al-Heisha resident who managed to escape, IS fighters were staying in the village with heavy weapons with which to hit civilians if the coalition led a strike. He said, “They wouldn’t let us leave. We had to escape by running out into the fields, with our children and old people. What else could we do? We left everything behind.” In order to incite a change and protect civilian lives, responsibility must be taken for the instances when we failed to do so. Sign below to demand accountability for these deaths by launching a full investigation into their cause.
Dear Commander General Votel,
The loss of civilian life in Syria is a tragedy that must not be allowed to continue. It has come to my attention that in the aftermath of a U.S.-led coalition air strike, as many as 20 civilians are dead and 30 more wounded in al-Heisha, a village near Raqqa. Among the dead were six women and a child. Responsibility must be taken for these unnecessary deaths.
A coalition spokesman confirmed the airstrikes in that area. A statement was released stating that seven strikes near Raqqa were conducted that day, in which six IS tactical units were engaged, and three fighting positions, a vehicle, and a car bomb facility were destroyed. The SDF has announced its campaign to regain control of IS stronghold Raqqa, and has reported that some 200 families have fled the village of al-Heisha. However, Col John Dorrian says that “more specific information is needed to conclusively determine responsibility” for civilian casualties.
I urge you to use your authority as Commander to launch a full investigation into the strike and to conclusively determine responsibility. Syrian civilians should not have to pay with their lives because of the location of their homes. Their lives should be defended and protected, and the only way that can happen is to ensure accountability when civilians are killed. Please thoroughly investigate these strikes and the deaths of these people, whose lives have value and who deserve justice for the deaths of their loved ones.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel