AS THE BATTLE for Raqqa, Syria, raged last October, a family in the Harat al-Badu neighborhood bunkered down in their home in an attempt to survive the fighting between the U.S.-led coalition and Islamic State militants. Mohammed Fayad, a man in his 80s, had lived in the same home in Harat al-Badu for the past 50 years. When the fighting began, Fayad refused to flee the property that he had put a lifetime of labor into, remaining in the home with his daughters and other relatives. As coalition airstrikes began pounding the city, Fayad’s home also became a refuge for other terrified neighbors and their families seeking safety from the attacks.
Their safe haven would not last. On the night of October 11, a coalition airstrike hit Fayad’s home. As Ali Habib, a local man who had been sheltering his family with Fayad, later told researchers from Amnesty International:
I was sitting on a chair holding my little boy and the women were sitting on the floor, huddled together. … I felt the roof of the house collapse on me. I could not move and my little boy was not next to me anymore. … I called my wife, my mother, my daughter, but nobody answered. … I realized that everybody was dead. Then my boy, Mohammed, called out and that gave me the strength to free myself from the rubble and go to him. He had been thrown some 10 meters away by the explosion. We were both injured.
Sixteen people were killed in the strike that hit Fayad’s home, including Fayad, his three daughters, and 11 other relatives and acquaintances.
Fayad’s story is one of many contained in a new report by Amnesty International, an appraisal of the coalition’s four-month anti-ISIS campaign and its impact on civilians living in the city. The report, entitled “War of Annihilation,” builds on earlier work by Amnesty International and others that has found that U.S.-led airstrikes have caused massive civilian casualties, and it asks whether the destruction was necessary in order to defeat the Islamic State.
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