Air Wars has released its analysis of airstrikes and civilian casualties for the month of June 2020. According to the analysis, there was a slight resurgence in foreign action in Syria, with several Russian strikes being reported in Idlib and the ‘US-led Coalition’ launching numerous operations against ‘Iranian-backed groups’ in Syria. Turkey launched a major joint air and ground operation against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, resulting in several civilian casualty incidents.
While the conflict in Libya continued on the ground, the number of airstrikes decreased significantly as the Government of National Accord (GNA), with Turkish support, continued to consolidate its gains from the previous month against the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its foreign allies.
As the chart below shows, the number of civilian harm incidents decreased during June across all major conflicts tracked by Airwars apart from Iraq (due to Turkey’s Operation Tiger Claw against the PKK.) The number of reported civilian casualty incidents in Libya decreased by almost 75%.
June marked the first month in Libya where the GNA and Turkey allegedly caused more civilian harm than the LNA and its allies. While the number of tracked air and artillery strikes dropped significantly from 274 to 94, locally reported civilian deaths only decreased from 64-81 to 44-54.
The GNA and Turkey allegedly conducted 25 air and artillery strikes leading to between 24 and 32 civilian deaths. In the worst event of the month, between 12 and 20 civilians were killed by a GNA or Turkish drone strike on Qasr Bin Gashir on June 3rd.
Civilian harm reported from LNA and Emirati strikes significantly decreased compared to previous months. The siege of Libya’s capital officially ended on 4th June after more than 400 days. Between 16 and 17 civilian deaths were alleged from 59 LNA and Emirati actions in June. The most severe incident took place in Gheryan on June 2nd, when five civilian males were reportedly killed by a drone strike.
Another six strikes by unknown belligerents allegedly led to a further four to five civilian deaths.
The vast majority of these strikes in Libya were conducted at the beginning of June, with only seven reported towards the end of the month.
Numerous incidents were reported from Syria, although overall the number of reported civilian casualties was reduced from the previous month.
After three months of relative calm in north western Syria, Russian airstrikes were reported for the first time on June 3rd and then again on June 8th-9th, with some reportedly leading to civilian harm. In total, four civilian harm incidents allegedly involving Russia were reported during the month, resulting in eight civilian deaths and the injury of 16 others.
The month of June saw only one civilian harm incident locally reported to have involved the US-led Coalition in Syria. This was a decrease from the four incidents reported for the previous month, which remains the highest monthly tally of the year to date.
On June 24th, on the road between Idlib city and the town of Binnish, a Coalition drone reportedly targeted a ‘Santa Fe’ car, allegedly killing Abu Adnan Al-Homsi, a senior figure in Huras al-Din, an affiliate of al-Qaeda. According to SMART, the drone strike also killed a civilian riding a motorbike near the targeted car.
In Iraq, there was one civilian harm incident reported in the Abu Zuwair area near Baiji. This came after a US MQ-IC Gray Eagle armed drone crashed in the area, which led to shepherds approaching the fallen drone. However, another drone arrived and struck the same area killing the four shepherds near the crashed drone. According to other sources, the shepherds had carried parts of the drone in a pickup truck and were then pursued by a second drone and killed as they tried to leave the area.
Turkish-led actions varied considerably in Syria and Iraq during June. The number of civilian harm incidents involving Turkish action decreased considerably in Syria, while Iraq saw Turkey escalating its ongoing anti-PKK campaign, after launching Operation Claw-Tiger.
Airwars tracked one civilian harm incident in Syria involving alleged Turkish action. On June 23rd, a Turkish drone strike reportedly killed three women in the village of Helince, east of Kobani.
In Iraq, Turkey launched a major joint air and ground operation against the PKK in northern Iraq on June 17th. According to reports, Special Forces were airlifted to the border region of Haftanin in the early hours of Operation Claw-Tiger. According to the Turkish Ministry of Defence, the campaign targeted 150 suspected PKK positions with jets, helicopters, drones and artillery.
The unprecedented scale and scope of these latest operations posed a significant risk to civilians living near the Turkish border of northern Iraq. The week following the beginning of operations was particularly harmful to civilians in Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaimaniyah.
As a result, five civilian harm incidents were reported during Juneh, four of which took place following the beginning of Operation Claw-Tiger. In these events, seven people were reported killed and at least nine others injured.
Turkish attacks in northern Iraq in the first week of the campaign drew widespread condemnation from neighbouring countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Iraqi Government also condemned the latest incursion by Turkey into Iraq’s territory as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
After more than three months without any civilian harm incidents allegedly resulting from Kurdish counterfire, local Syrian news outlets said that a child was killed after a mortar shell, reportedly from the YPG, exploded near the city of Mare’a in Aleppo province on June 28th.
There were no publicly alleged or announced US strikes in Somalia during June, with the last declared AFRICOM action taking place on May 17th.
Airwars tracked one alleged US drone strike in Yemen during the month of June. According to local reports, the strike took place on Wadi Obeida, just northwest of Marib city on June 24th. The strike reportedly hit al-Qaeda militants, who had just escaped a battle with Saudi-backed Yemeni forces in the Qaniyah front of Baydha province. According to one source, the airstrike killed an unnamed senior figure within AQAP. However, this claim has not been corroborated by other reports on the airstrike.
CENTCOM itself said that it did not carry out any strikes in Yemen during the month. However it remains possible that the June 24th event was conducted by the CIA, which carries out a parallel, covert campaign in Yemen. LINK
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