The U.S.-led Coalition has surpassed Russia in the number of civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria this month — by a lot.
Since Coalition airstrikes were first recorded more than two and a half years ago, no monthly total has neared that of January, which ended with an estimated 254 civilian deaths, according to London-based monitoring group Airwars.
The figure in Syria stands a bit higher for the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights, another London-based monitoring group, which calculates 91 deaths instead of 65. Both compile and verify local and media reports.
In the same period, Russian casualties — which were highest last year — dropped dramatically due to a ceasefire brokered with Turkey and Iran. The Syrian Network for Human Rights counted 48 civilian deaths from Russian strikes in January.
The U.S., in the meantime, amped up its operations in both countries even before Donald Trump took office. Operations in Mosul, Aleppo and Raqqa killed more civilians than actions did previously since they centered in and around cities.
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A day after Trump was inaugurated, up to 15 civilians were killed by what locals said were Coalition strikes, according to Airwars. Successive attacks have hit schools and reportedly killed children and a person with special needs.
Trump has said he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and “eradicate” radical Islamic terrorism “from the face of the earth,” but the way he would do so is not yet clear. The Pentagon has a month to draft a new, bolder plan, which Airwars wrote will likely make it even easier to hit civilians in actions.
Despite the current divide between Coalition and Russian strikes, Trump has said that he would consider closer collaboration on Syria. While the Pentagon debunked a claim by AP that they would conduct joint airstrikes, he has said he would lift sanctions on Russia if they are “really helping us.” He also said in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two countries will work toward "partner-like cooperation," including in Syria.
Likely civilian fatalities in Iraq and Syria from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes jumped by 70 percent in 2016, though underreporting may mean the figure is even higher, according to Airwars.