Tag Archives: airstrikes

Saudi Airstrikes Hit Yemen Market, Killing at Least 41 Civilians

by Jason Ditz

Saudi warplanes attacked a crowded marketplace in the northwestern Yemeni province of Hajjah today, killing at least 41 people, all of them civilians, and wounding scores of others. Local officials say many of the wounded are severely so, and are not expected to survive.

The attacks centered on an outdoor marketplace and a nearby restaurant, and overwhelmed two nearby hospitals with the number of casualties. Saudi officials expressed “regret” for any “injuries or loss of life,” but insisted they weren’t sure it was true.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) confirmed the incident, however, saying 40 of the wounded civilians were admitted to Abs Hospital, one of the two hospitals which took in casualties. Amnesty International reiterated their call for the US to stop sending arms to the Saudis, saying both unexploded US bombs and fragments of exploded US bombs are showing up around civilian targets in Yemen.

This is the latest in a large number of Saudi airstrikes against targets that ended up being civilian in nature. Over the course of the first year of the Saudi war in Yemen, over 6,000 people have been killed, roughly half civilians, and those overwhelmingly the result of airstrikes.

Donald Trump: The U.S. Needs To ‘Stay With Israel’ and Stop ‘Nation-Building’

GOP presidential candidate and billionaire mogul Donald Trump laid out his foreign policy plans on Monday, which included the United States being “very dependent on what Israel wants” and focusing on fixing itself rather than on “nation-building” overseas.

In an interview with The Guardian, Trump said that the United States’ attempt to turn Iraq into a democracy hasn’t worked, and has left the country worse off. “Iraq is a disaster right now and it’s going to be taken over by Iran and ISIS, so I think we have to focus on ourselves,” he explained.

“We’re nation-building. We can’t do it,” Trump said. “We have to build our own nation. We’re nation-building, trying to tell people who have [had] dictators or worse for centuries how to run their own countries.”

Trump also noted that the U.S. is $19 trillion in debt. “We have to straighten out our own house,” he said. “We cannot go around to every country that we’re not exactly happy with and say we’re going to recreate [them].”

While Trump said that when it comes to military intervention, “there are certain cases where you see things going on, atrocities going on, that are horrible,” and “ISIS is one of them.” He said that the U.S. should only deploy American military “if there’s a problem going on in the world and you can solve the problem.”

[RELATED: Trump: Rivals Want to Start World War 3 Over Syria]

Regarding Russia launching airstrikes in Syria, Trump noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “going to want to bomb Isis because he doesn’t want Isis going into Russia and so he’s going to want to bomb Isis.”

“Vladimir Putin is going to want to really go after Isis, and if he doesn’t it’ll be a big shock to everybody,”  Trump added. He said that Putin “is an Assad person” in regards to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and “the United States doesn’t like Assad,” which could create conflict.

The Obama administration recently ended its $500 million program arming moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, and Trump criticized the administration for “backing people who they don’t know who they are,” noting that the rebels “could be ISIS.”

“Assad is bad,” Trump said. “Maybe these people could be worse.”

[RELATED: Obama Administration Ends $500 Million Syria Rebel Training Program]

In terms of the current conflict between Israel and Palestine, Trump told The Guardian that he “would love to see something happen,” and that he thinks “there is an answer to it, but it’s a complicated answer.”

Trump said that he believes the U.S. should “stay with Israel,” because it has been the U.S.’s most reliable partner in the Middle East. “Israel has been terrific to us,” he said. “Obama has treated Israel horribly. We have to stay with Israel and stay with them big time.” 

“I’d really call up Bibi,” Trump said, referring to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “who is a friend of mine and I’d call up some people and be very dependent on what Israel wants. You know if they really want certain things and they are deserving of certain things.”

For more election coverage, click here.

Doctors Without Borders Hospital Raided By Afghan Forces Months Before US Airstrike

Months before US airstrikes repeatedly attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital located in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, the organization stated in a July press release that its facility had been raided by Afghan special forces who assaulted the staff members and arrested patients.

According to the press release:

[pull_quote_center]On Wednesday 1 July at 14:07, heavily armed men from Afghan Special Forces entered the MSF hospital compound, cordoned off the facility and began shooting in the air. The armed men physically assaulted three MSF staff members and entered the hospital with weapons. They then proceeded to arrest three patients. Hospital staff tried their best to ensure continued medical care for the three patients, and in the process, one MSF staff member was threatened at gunpoint by two armed men. After approximately one hour, the armed men released the three patients and left the hospital compound.[/pull_quote_center]

Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), condemned the “violent intrusion.” Three months after the raid, US airstrikes attacked the hospital for between 30 and 45 minutes according to hospital officials, killing 22 people including 12 members of staff and 10 civilian patients including 3 children.

[RELATED: Doctors Without Borders Leaving Afghan City After U.S.-Led Coalition Bombs Hospital]

U.S. forces have displayed difficulty in explaining what led to the deadly attack last Saturday. Initial reports from the Pentagon claimed that the strikes were ordered to protect U.S. forces under threat; later, a U.S. general in Afghanistan said the airstrike “was requested by Afghan troops who had come under fire.”

MSF said that “it had repeatedly informed the U.S.-led coalition of the facility’s precise GPS coordinates over the past few months. The location of the hospital was last conveyed to the international coalition three days before the airstrike,” according to the Washington Post.

[RELATED: War Crimes Probe Urged After US Airstrikes Kill 22 Civilians in Kunduz Hospital]

“A hospital was mistakenly struck,” General John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

Doctors Without Borders/MSF have strongly maintained that the airstrikes in its hospital amount to a war crime, and have demanded an investigation into the incident.

U.S. Proposes Admittance of 5,000 More Refugees In 2016

With tens of thousands of civilians fleeing from the current conflict in Syria, creating what has been described as a refugee crisis, Secretary of State John Kerry met with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding increasing the total number of refugees allowed in the U.S. from 70,000 to 75,000 in 2016.

Kerry discussed the increase during a meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. After the meeting, he said that there would be an increase, but did not specify the exact number.

“We are looking hard at the number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe,” Kerry said. “That’s being vetted fully right now.”

The Guardian reported that a State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters that the proposal is for an increase of 5,000 refugees, and is something the State Department has been considering all year.

“Given what’s going on in the world today, there’s a lot of people outside the administration, and inside the administration too, who would like to increase it significantly,” the official said. “The question becomes will Congress support that? Can we move this process that we have – it doesn’t turn on a dime – to start bringing larger numbers sooner? That’s hard.”

The U.S. began launching airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Sept. 2014, and has led a coalition targeting the militants with countries such as Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Emirates.

[RELATED: U.S. Launches Airstrikes In Syria To Target ISIS]

On Wednesday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the country also plans to begin launching airstrikes because the refugee crisis “cannot be solved just by receiving them.”

“At the moment there are millions of Syrians who are displaced. There are refugee camps—in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Turkey—receiving 4 to 5 million Syrians,” Valls said. “And we’re not going to receive 4 to 5 million Syrians, so the problem has to be dealt with at source.”

[RELATED: Obama Says He Will Eliminate Airstrike Casualties EXCEPT For In Iraq and Syria]

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took to the Senate floor on Wednesday with a picture of the dead body of 3-year-old Syrian Refugee, Aylan Kurdi, who drowned while attempting the journey to Greece with his 5-year-old brother and mother.

McCain used the image to urge for “stronger leadership” from President Obama in Syria, and claimed that Americans should be haunted by the fact that “the United States will continue to do nothing meaningful” in terms of solving the conflict.

[RELATED: White House Legal Justification For Syria War Nebulous As War Broadens]

The Guardian noted that Germany has said it “expects 800,000 refugees to arrive this year,” and British prime minister David Cameron “has promised to take in 20,000 refugees,” which along with those taken in by the U.S., will still not be enough according to some refugee advocacy groups.

ABC News reported that while the U.S. has admitted 1,500 Syrian refugees over the last four years, “the numbers of those fleeing the conflict are staggering,” with over 322,000 refugees arriving in Europe this year, and nearly 20,000 arriving in Munich, Germany, this weekend.

[RELATED: Truth In Media: The Origin of ISIS]

Investigative journalist Ben Swann reported on the origin of ISIS in March, explaining the United States’ involvement in helping ISIS go from a “no-name group in Syria” to a group that was “heavily armed and trained by U.S. and Coalition Special Forces.”

Watch the full episode below:


“Americans Don’t Know What The Hell Is Happening In Yemen” says Activist

Washington, D.C.- Hundreds of Yemeni civilians have found themselves in the crossfire of the Saudi-led bombing campaign that is in its second month, while Yemeni-Americans watch in desperation at the brutality taking place.

The Saudi’s are bombing the largest cities in Yemen in an attempt to destroy gains made by Houthi rebels who are overthrowing the government of Yemen. The Saudis claim that the Houthis are a proxy force fighting on behalf of Iran, even though the Houthis are a native tribal group from Yemen.

Since March 26, 2015, more than 750 Yemenis have been killed by Saudi airstrikes, over 2,500 have been injured and more than 150,000 people have been displaced. None of that reflects the incredible destruction to the nation’s infrastructure as more than 12 million Yemenis are facing food and water shortages.

Ben Swann speaks with Yemeni activist Rabyaah Al-thaibani about the plight of the country’s citizens and their struggle for survival.

Obama Says He Will Eliminate Airstrike Casualties EXCEPT For in Iraq and Syria

On Tuesday, the White House admitted that the set of standards aimed at preventing civilian deaths due to U.S. Airstrikes would not apply to the current operations in Iraq and Syria.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the standards, which were implemented by President Obama in 2013, “would likely cut the number of strikes by establishing that Americans must be directly threatened, applying the standards for targeting Americans to all strikes, and saying there needs to be near-certainty that no civilians would be killed.”

The policy was put in place in response to criticism of the Obama administration and the many drone strikes it called for in Pakistan and Yemen.

Yahoo News reported that the White House only acknowledged that they were straying from the set standards, after they received multiple questions about reports that “as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a Tomahawk missile struck the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria’s Idlib province on the morning of Sept. 23.

Although the village of Kafr Daryan was originally said to be a stronghold of the Khorasan group, a political member of the Free Syrian Army, Abu Abdo Salabman, said that after witnessing several bodies of women and children being removed from the rubble, and taken away in ambulances, he believed the strike was “a big mistake.”

When asked about the airstrike, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, said that the Pentagon would “take all credible allegations seriously,” but that President Obama’s strict policy on airstrikes “does not cover the current U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.

Hayden insisted that the policy promising “near certainty” that there would be no civilian deaths only applied when the United States took direct action “outside areas of active hostilities,” and that the current state in both Iraq and Syria did not fit that description.

Regarding the exception in policy, Harold Koh, who was the State Department’s top lawyer during Obama’s first term, that said the White House seems to be creating a “grey zone.”

If we’re not applying the strict rules [to prevent civilian casualties] to Syria and Iraq, then they are of relatively limited value,” Koh said.

Poll: 70 Percent of Troops are Opposed to “Boots on the Ground” in Iraq

Despite the intensifying conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the United States’ invasion of both Syria and Iraq via airstrike, a recent survey done by Military Times found that the majority of active-duty troops in the United States are opposed to sending ground troops in to combat Islamic State militants.

The survey asked the troops, “In your opinion, do you think the U.S. military should send a substantial number of combat troops to Iraq to support the Iraqi security forces?” Approximately 70 percent of the more than 2,200 surveyed gave the answer “No.”

Although President Obama has insisted that he will not call for ground troops to battle against ISIS, his decision to expand airstrikes from Iraq, into Syria, has left many questioning what his next move will be.

On Sunday, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner criticized Obama’s decision to only use airstrikes, saying that, “At some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground.

When asked whether he thinks those “boots on ground” should be American, Boehner told ABC’s This Week, “We have no choice. These are barbarians. They intend to kill us. And if we don’t destroy them first, we’re gonna pay the price.

However, the majority of the active-duty troops whose boots could actually be the ones “on the ground,” don’t share Boehner’s views.

One Army Infantry Officer, who deployed to Iraq three times, and who asked to remain anonymous, told the Military Times that he didn’t believe deploying ground troops would solve the current problem.

It’s their country, it’s their business,” said the Officer. “I don’t think major ‘boots on the ground’ is the right answer.

Others doubt that going back into Iraq will make much more of a difference than before.

Marine 2nd Lt. Christopher Fox said, “It’s kind of futile in the end – regardless of how well we do our job, the Iraqi government isn’t going to be able to hold up.

According to the Military Times, this summer’s “near-collapse of the Iraqi army” fueled a “new level of pessimism” about the Iraq Warwhich led to only 30 percent of active-duty troops being surveyed to conclude that it was either “very successful” or “somewhat successful.”

Many soldiers are questioning why President Obama chose to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq in the first place, saying that their mission there was not complete in 2011.

Army Capt. Eric Hatch said that while he thought they were close to being done in 2011, they could have easily stayed another year of two.

If you’re going to commit troops to do a mission, you should stay until the mission is complete,” said Hatch.

President Obama says fight with IS not ‘America’s fight alone’

One day after the US began carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, President Obama made a speech hailing the efforts of an international coalition to help stop the growing terrorist threat in the Middle East.

The US airstrikes in Syrian territory were in unison with five other Middle Eastern allies against the terrorist group, and marks a substantial growth in the efforts to stop the Islamic State.  Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are five substantial forces carrying out airstrikes and fighting alongside the US.

Each of these nations, according to the Guardian, provided their own level of support with various forms of air power, including deploying fighter jets, bombers, and Tomahawk missiles to target and weaken 22 ISIS targets in Syria.

“The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone… we are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations,” said President Obama from  speech on the White House lawn, Tuesday.  “Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant General Bill Mayville, also said, according to the BBC, the attacks in Syria were organized in three separate waves.  The US carried out the first wave of airstrikes while the other Middle Eastern nations participated in the second and third waves of airstrikes.

Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke Tuesday about the efforts to stop ISIS.  Kerry said to the UN, “We will hold them responsible for their grotesque atrocities.”

VIDEO: Watch U.S. Airstrikes in Syria

On Monday, the United States military and five of its Arab allies launched airstrikes at Islamic State targets in Syria. After launching 190 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, these were the first from the United States to enter Syria.

The Pentagon released a statement acknowledging the new development in the war called for by President Obama, and referring to the group as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time.”

USA Today reported that a senior Defense Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the attack, claimed that the attack was carried out by “warplanes dropping bombs and ships firing cruise missiles,” and that it “hit about 20 ISIL targets, including headquarters buildings for the militants who have based their movement in Syria.”

According to the Associated Press, U.S. officials claimed that the airstrikes began around 8:30 p.m. EDT, and were conducted by the United States, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

Last week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Army General Martin Dempsey told U.S. Senators, “We will be prepared to strike ISIL targets in Syria that degrade ISIL’s capabilities.”
“This won’t look like a shock-and-awe campaign, because that’s simply not how ISIL is organized, but it will be a persistent and sustainable campaign,”
Dempsey said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the plan to combat Islamic State militants “includes targeted actions against ISIL safe havens in Syria, including its command and control logistics capabilities and infrastructure.”

According to USA Today, about two thirds of the estimated 30,000 Islamic State fighters are based in Syria.
The Associated Press reported that the U.S. has been “increasing its surveillance flights over Syria, getting better intelligence on potential targets and militant movements,” and that “none of Monday’s airstrikes

France Joins the U.S. in Launching Airstrikes Against ISIS

On Friday, France carried out its first airstrike against Islamic State militants in Iraq, making France the first country to publicly join the United States in fighting back against the militants via airstrike.

French President François Hollande announced that the airstrikes destroyed their intended target, a logistics depot controlled by the militants, and vowed that France will continue to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Hollande released a statement regarding the airstrikes, and using the name “Daesh” when referring to the Islamic State militants.

This morning at 9:40, our Rafale planes carried out a first strike against a logistics depot of the terrorist organisation Daesh in north-east Iraq. The objective was hit and completely destroyed,” the statement said.

Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Iraq, said that four French airstrikes hit the town of Zumar, and killed dozens of extremist fighters.

Other operations will follow in the coming days with the same goal – to weaken this terrorist organization and come to the aid of the Iraqi authorities,” said Hollande. “There are always risks in taking up a responsibility. I reduced the risks to a minimum.

Yahoo News reported that Hollande himself visited Iraq last week, making him the “most high-profile leader to do so since jihadists stormed across the country.

On Thursday, Hollande told reporters that he had “decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer aerial support.

As soon as we have identified targets, we will act – within a short time-frame,” said Hollande. “We will not go further than that. There will be no ground troops and we will only intervene in Iraq.

According to NBC News, France’s involvement in Iraq is significant, due to the fact that France was “among the most vocal critics of U.S. President George W. Bush’s military action in 2003 that toppled Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.”

Ground troops might be needed to combat ISIS according to Pentagon official

After President Obama said the US would not send troops to fight ISIS in the Middle East, the top military official in the US has said if the current strategy were to fail, American ground troops would be needed to stop the growing threat of the Islamic State.

Army General Martin Dempsey gave testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee saying, according to ABC News, “To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president.”

Gen. Dempsey also said he believes the current strategy of forming an international coalition with nations from the West and Middle East is the appropriate response at this time.  If there was a direct threat to the US though, Gen. Dempsey said, according to the BBC, “I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of US military ground forces.”

One instance where US ground troops may be required to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the area would be in the retaking of the second largest Iraqi city, Mosul.  “It could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission,” said Gen. Dempsey.  “But for the day-to-day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don’t see it to be necessary right now.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also spoke to the committee saying the initial plan to keep current airstrikes focused in Iraq would expand to Syria, according to the LA Times.  Hagel said, “targeted actions against ISIL safe havens in Syria, including its command and control, logistics capabilities and infrastructure.”

As of now, the US has conducted over 160 airstrikes against ISIS and the Islamic State in order to help ally forces on the ground in Iraq.

Iran-US alliance possible to fight ISIS

An unlikely fellowship may sprout between the U.S. and Iran as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has shown support for U.S. military intervention against ISIS in the Middle-East.

Iran’s foreign ministry official said, according to the BBC, Iran would not co-operate with the U.S. against the Islamic State, but the Ayatollah has authorized his top military commander to work with U.S., Iraqi, and Kurdish military forces to bring a stop to ISIS in the Middle-East.

This comes days after reports saying the Iraqi town of Amerli, which was under ISIS control, was liberated by a coalition of U.S., Iraqi, and Iranian military forces.  The U.S. provided air power, performing airstrikes throughout the town, while Iraqi and Iranian militiamen liberated the town on foot.  Iraqi President Faud Masum confirmed this according to CNN.

As the Economist points out, the militias are not Iranian military forces as we might think of them.  These Iranian militiamen are not directly linked to the Iranian government, but they are either members of the al-Quds, a clandestine arm of Iran’s revolutionary guard, or they are followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who is considered one of the most central religious and political leaders in Iraq.

Al-Sadr is the leader of the Sadrist Movement and had served on many political councils in Iraq.  He had issued a warning to ISIS in June, 2014, saying he and his forces would, “shake the ground under the feet of ignorance and extremism,” according to NBC News.

Shia militias in Iraq are not a new thing as they fought American forces in Iraq when America invaded the country in 2003.  However, now these militiamen seem to be aligning themselves with Western forces in the area to fight the threat of ISIS.

Support from Iran against ISIS should come as no surprise given Iran follows the Shia sect of Islam, while ISIS follows the Sunni sect which views Shia Islam as heretical.

ISIS has released a second video, supposedly showing the beheading of another American journalist

Following through with a threat made two weeks ago after the beheading of American journalist James Foley, ISIS has reportedly beheaded a second American journalist covering Iraq and Syria.

Steven Sotloff is the second American journalist to be executed publicly by ISIS after the group has demanded American airstrikes against the terror group and their controlled lands to cease.  ISIS released a video of the beheading, similar to that of the video showing the execution of James Foley, but the video is currently being analyzed for authenticity.

Sotloff, 31, was a graduate of the University of Central Florida and wrote for TIME as well as other publications.  According to NBC News, he went missing in Syria in August 2013.

This news comes one week after Sotloff’s mother, Shirley Sotloff, released her own video pleading to ISIS for the release of her son from captivity.  “I want what every mother wants,”  she said in the video, “to live to see her children’s children. I plead with you to grant me this.”

The video from ISIS reportedly shows Sotloff, dressed in an orange jumpsuit similar to the one Foley had worn, while a man in a black mask says, according to the Guardian, “I’m back,” signalling this may be the same masked man who had executed Foley.

After the execution of Sotloff, the video ends with the killer demanding an end to the American airstrikes, while showing another kneeling hostage.  Some sources are reporting this other hostage is a British citizen named David Cawthorne Haines.

President Obama said after the beheading of Foley that he and his administration were appalled by the video, while also saying the violence “shocks the conscience.”  According to the Hill, Obama also said, “We will be vigilant and we will be relentless.  When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what is necessary to make sure justice is done.”