Despite President Donald Trump’s announcement of a full withdrawal from Syria by mid-January, the United States has intensified bomb campaigns in the eastern territories held by Iraq and Levant forces.
The most violent attacks occurred this past week—the bombing of civilian village Al Kashmah—forcing families to flee south. It is estimated 50,000–60,000 people and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters still remain in the area according to an anonymous civilian activist.
“The civilians in these areas have no place to go or hide from the U.S. bombardment of their villages,” the activist said.
Dense rural areas such as the villages in Deir ez-Zor carry a high risk for civilians as remaining ISIL fighters flee the cities from Kurdish-led forces.
The Yarmouk Hospital—said to be the last remaining public health facility to treat civilians in the area—was bombed without warning by U.S. forces in violation of international humanitarian law. “The U.S. could not attack the hospital without warning it first and without giving the hospital a reasonable amount of time to either stop ISIS from using it or to evacuate civilian personnel and wounded [people],” said Kevin Jon Heller, a professor of International Law at Australia University and University of Amsterdam.
President Trump declined a timeline for retracting troops, and it remains unclear as to how long the U.S. air attacks will continue. In the past month, the U.S. campaign bombed villages in and around Al Kashmah, targeting civilian areas such as internet cafes, which operate as essential forms of communication for the ISIL fighters. The U.S. military has admitted to killing 1,139 civilians in Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the campaign in 2014 against ISIL. Monitoring groups such as Airwars contest the U.S. death toll with an estimated 7,308 and 11,629 civilians killed.
“[U.S. military] like to disrupt and mess everything up,” an ISIL fighter said in an interview with Al Jazeera. “They bombed the places where they sell gasoline for the motor, or they sell cooking oil or where they filter the water—they bomb all these places. Not just the net, they bomb everything just to make your life horrible.”
A three-day ceasefire has been negotiated between ISIL and the Kurds, a significant on-the-ground ally to the U.S., in order to provide food and humanitarian aid. An ISIL fighter familiar with the talks leaked the ceasefire may extend to six months, which would serve to bolster the Kurdish forces against a potential two-front attack by the Turkish army.
The U.S. continues plans to drop bombs on Deir ez-Zor despite the disengagement of the Kurds against ISIL fighters.