Russia launched a series of air strikes on Sunday that left many tragically dead.
According to Yahoo News, Russia attacked a village in Syria held by remnant ISIS forces. The airstrike killed 34 civilians, 15 of which were children.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the village was al-Shafah in the Deir al-Zour province on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in Syria. It’s said the village is one of the few remaining territories held by ISIS forces after the aggressive attacks by US-led forces that recently led to the seizure of Raqqa, ISIS’ last remaining stronghold.
Russia has been busy fighting to amplify the power of their Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad. Since September of 2015, Russia has been busy assisting President al-Assad and his government in reclaiming territory in Damascus.
According to Al Jazeera News, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that the attacks were part of an aggressive strike against remaining “terrorist strongholds” in that valley located next to the river. The planes used were Tu-22M3 long-range bombers.
The province of Deir al-Zour is an oil-rich area of land that was once almost entirely under ISIS’ reign. Now the terrorists are estimated to only control about nine percent, leaving much of the territory, and its oil, up for grabs.
The two interested parties are the Syrian government (allied with Russia), and the Syrian Democratic Forces — an opposing faction made up of Kurdish and Arab revolutionaries allied with the US.
Both sides were focused almost exclusively on eradicating the mutual threat of ISIS, but with ISIS’ power waning and vast swathes of territory rich in resources lying unclaimed, there’s bound to be conflict on both sides.
BBC News reports that Syrian government forces have been engaging in skirmishes with ISIS forces since mid-September in the area. Russia’s airstrikes are meant to provide assistance and weaken ISIS forces before being engaged by ground troops.
The air strikes in September also had reported civilian casualties as many of them were said to have intentionally targeting refugee camps and ferries transporting individuals across the Euphrates.
The plan is to drive ISIS forces from the area to the south. Syrian regime forces backed by Russia are driving ISIS forces on one side of the river and Kurdish rebels backed by the US are doing the same on the other side.
Russia’s strike on the village that left nearly three dozen civilians dead could be the Syrian Regime’s effort to quickly secure the Deir al-Zour province and eradicate all remnants of ISIS before swooping in and reclaiming the area.
Granted an unfortunate result of war is that civilian lives will be lost. No matter how much intelligence is gathered or preplanning is made before an attack there will frequently be collateral damage resulting in unwanted deaths.
Russian forces are targeting remnants of ISIS fighters in Syria who hide amongst the civilian population. Are the deaths of children in these strikes the fault of ISIS?
But if Russia and the Syrian regime are acting aggressively in the hopes of wrapping up the war sooner and regaining control of the oil-rich fields of Deir al-Zour — at the cost of civilian casualties — they need to be held responsible.
Everyone is grateful for their assistance in eradicating ISIS, but they need to be more careful in attacks against remaining ISIS forces as they are likely to be hiding amongst civilians for protection. Attacking any target known to harbor terrorists with this in mind could result in many civilian lives being lost with few terrorists being eliminated.