Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Australian War Planes Dropping More bombs on Iraq than ever, The New Daily, 22 June, 2017.

Australian warplanes dropping more bombs on Iraq than ever

Australia has temporarily halted air operations over Syria. Photo: Australian Defence Force: Sgt Pete
John Stapleton

At the same time as Australia has withdrawn from Syrian airspace under threat of being bombed out of the sky by Russia, the Australian Defence Force is dropping historically high numbers of bombs on Iraq.

Australia is the second-largest contributor to the American-led coalition efforts to defeat Islamic State in the increasingly controversial quagmire of the Middle East.

This week Australia suspended flights over Syria as a “precautionary measure”.

The US shot down a Syrian military jet on Sunday and Russia has threatened retaliation. It declared Australian jets a target and has threatened to shoot down any coalition planes flying west of the Euphrates River.

The latest figures just released by the ADF show that so far this year Australian FA/18 Super Hornets have dropped 390 bombs on Islamic State positions in Iraq, 119 in the month of May alone. This is the highest number since Tony Abbott took the country into the conflict in September 2014.

The most recent fortnightly update of the conflict issued by the ADF shows virtually all the activity in Iraq is centred around Mosul, where the last of the Islamic State forces are holed up. Mosul is a major city in northern Iraq, located on the Tigris River opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh.

Worldwide condemnation of civilian deaths from coalition bombs in the narrow, medieval streets of West Mosul is blighting the war effort.

The Defence Department and Defence Minister Marise Payne have repeatedly ignored questions from The New Daily on the size of the bombs Australia is dropping and any available estimates of civilian casualties.

However, a report from Human Rights Watch this month documents evidence of bombs between 500 and 2000 pounds.Islamic State’s stronghold in Mosul is being surrounded by US-led coalition forces.

The report, titled Iraq: Civilian Casualties Mount in West Mosul, states: “Munitions of this size can pose an excessive risk to civilians when used in populated areas, given their large blast and fragmentation radius. The … attacks may have caused disproportionate civilian harm in comparison to the military advantage gained, in violation of international humanitarian law.”

More than 600,000 civilians have fled Mosul this year, but 200,000 remain.

There are fears civilian deaths will rise rapidly in the final days of the conflict.

The Iraq army, backed with coalition airstrikes, are claiming to control more than 90 per cent of the city.

Military experts have told The New Daily civilian casualties are almost inevitable.

Melbourne-based medic Derek Ross, who has just returned from working with the group Global Outreach Doctors in Mosul, told The New Daily: “I treated civilians for the same bullet and blast injuries as the soldiers on the front line. We would often treat multiple members of the same family who were all injured by the same mortar attack.

“The uninjured children that were brought to the trauma centre with their injured family members were numb and silent.”

Former secretary to the Department of Defence Paul Barratt told The New Daily: “In an urban environment civilian casualties are almost inevitable. If you don’t want to have pictures of dead children on the evening screens you have to avoid operations that involve killing children.”

Dr Clark Jones, a terrorism expert at the Australian National University, told The New Daily there was an extremely high chance of civilian casualties.

“The public does not have much appetite for pictures of dead children, women and older people.”

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