Beginning on 16 October 2016, American-led forces began taking back control of the city of Mosul after it fell under occupation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2014. On 24 January 2017, the Eastern half of the city had been liberated from ISIL control, and the coalition forces began advancing into western Mosul soon after.
In February, the Trump administration stated that the U.S. would sharply escalate the offensive in Mosul. The Pentagon reported that around 1,400 separate munitions were unleashed over the last two weeks of March. The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights corroborated an increase in the rate of drone strikes and also documented eyewitness accounts of 3,846 civilian deaths and the destruction of 10,000 homes since the offensive into western Mosul began. Bassma Bassim, the head of the Mosul District Council, stated that air raids from 10 March to 17 March alone had killed "more than 500" civilians.
On 18 March, the U.S. Department of Defense stated that the American-led coalition had conducted "eight strikes consisting of 73 engagements in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government" and four of these strikes targeted ISIL in Mosul. They noted the strikes "engaged three ISIS tactical units; destroyed 56 ISIS vehicles, 25 fighting positions, five rocket-propelled grenade systems, two medium machine guns, two mortar systems, and an ISIS car bomb; and suppressed 20 ISIS mortar teams and four ISIS tactical units." The following day, they noted five more strikes in Mosul which "engaged four ISIS tactical units; destroyed 14 fighting positions, four vehicles, two rocket-propelled grenade systems, a medium machine gun, and an artillery system; damaged 14 supply routes; and suppressed five mortar teams and three ISIS tactical units." Some residents of the al-Jadida neighborhood say the airstrike hit an explosive-filled truck, detonating a blast that collapsed buildings packed with families.
The United States Central Command confirmed that the American-led coalition conducted an airstrike targeting ISIL fighters and equipment on 17 March in the al-Jadidah neighborhood, where the civilian casualties were reported; however, they could not confirm which member of the coalition conducted the airstrike.
The Iraqi military blamed ISIL for the attack despite reports suggesting that its artillery may also have hit the neighborhood, saying that 61 bodies had been recovered at the site of a booby-trapped house which it described as “completely destroyed.” The statement added that “there is no hole or indication that was subjected to an air strike.” That account strongly contradicted much field reporting and the accounts of other officials. A provincial health official, for instance, told Reuters that wide swaths of the neighborhood were destroyed in fighting, “civil defense has extracted and buried 160 bodies up to this moment.” The Iraqi Civil Defense Department reported at least 137 bodies were recovered, but by 27 March, that number had risen to 531.
On 25 May 2017, the Pentagon concluded that at least 105 civilians died in the airstrike when a US aircraft delivered a single precision-guided bomb (GBU-38 JDAM) with the intention of targeting two ISIL snipers on the second story of a structure in al-Jadida neighborhood. But the bomb also caused a large cache of ISIL explosives to detonate, leading to the catastrophic collapse of the building that had civilians sheltering downstairs, officials said.
The Iraqi Army temporarily stopped its advance into western Mosul following the airstrike.
Supranational and non-governmental organizations
Amnesty International – Amnesty International stated that recent increase in civilian casualties from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes "raised serious questions about the lawfulness of these attacks."
United Nations – The UN expressed profound concern over the escalating civilian death toll in the battle to retake Mosul.
Human Rights Watch – Human Rights Watch stated that "The high number of civilian deaths in recent fighting, as well as recent announcements about changed procedures for vetting airstrikes, raise concerns about the way the battle for west Mosul is being fought."
Australia – Defence Minister Marise Payne stated that, after an investigation, it was found that Australian combat aircraft were not involved in the airstrike.
Belgium – Belgium has opened an investigation into the Mosul airstrikes to determine if its warplanes were responsible for civilian casualties.
Iran – Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, has accused the United States of committing war crimes, saying: "This war crime is similar to the behavior of Daesh [Islamic State] and other Takfiri groups in targeting civilians and innocent people and should be urgently addressed in courts of justice [in Hague]."
Russia – According to Russia's Ministry of Defense, "Absurd statements of the Pentagon representatives [that "ISIS is smuggling civilians into buildings"] justifying civil casualties caused by American bombing in Iraq give more information on the operation planning level and the alleged supremacy of the American "smart" bombs."
Vatican City – Pope Francis stated that forces involved in the battle for Mosul have an obligation to protect noncombatants, "In expressing profound sadness for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew my appeal that everyone commit themselves to using all efforts to protect civilians, an imperative and urgent obligation"
On 16 March 2017, an airstrike by the United States Armed Forces killed up to 49 people in the rebel-held village of al-Jinah near Aleppo, Syria. The US military claimed the people targeted in the strike were militants belonging to the terrorist group al-Qaeda. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), local residents and local officials have claimed that the building struck was a mosque filled with worshipers. At the time, US military claimed that the structure bombed was not a mosque itself but was next to a mosque, which was undamaged. However, on May 5, 2017, a US Central Command investigation determined that the building was indeed part of a mosque-complex. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of SOHR, claimed the structure was a mosque which held over 300 people at the time of the strike.
Diplomatic relations between Iraq and the United States began when the U.S. first recognized Iraq on January 9, 1930, with the signing of the Anglo-American-Iraqi Convention in London by Charles G. Dawes, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Today, the United States and the Republic of Iraq both consider themselves as strategic partners, given the American political and military involvement after the invasion of Iraq and their mutual, deep-rooted relationship that followed. The United States provides the Iraqi security forces millions of dollars of military aid and training annually.
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