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Figures reveal sharp rise in civilian deaths from airstrikes globally

In the first half of 2017, civilian deaths from air-launched explosive violence have risen by 176% compared to the same period in 2016, new figures reveal.

Within the first six months of 2017, UK-based charity Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has recorded at least 20,47 civilian deaths from air-launched explosives as reported in English language media. Of these deaths, 88% took place in populated areas, such as homes, markets, hospitals and schools.

12 countries have seen civilian casualties from air-strikes so far this year – three more than in the first half of 2016. The worst impacted countries were Syria, Iraq and Yemen – with 90% of all civilian casualties from air strikes occurring in these three countries alone.

Syria has seen a 42% increase in civilian casualties from airstrikes in this period and Iraq has seen a rise of 34%.

Despite a decrease in the level of civilian harm from airstrikes in Yemen, the number remains significant given the continued humanitarian crisis throughout the country, which is exacerbated by air attacks. 18.8 million Yemenis are now reported to be in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN figures. Nevertheless, many states, including the UK, continue to support Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen, supplying intelligence and arms, despite significant criticism from the humanitarian community.

The main perpetrators of the civilian casualties from airstrikes are the Saudi-led coalition, Syria, Russia and the US-led coalition. In Syria, with the skies increasingly crowded, it is often difficult to identify the perpetrator.

The US-led coalition has seen a significant rise in the number of reported casualties from their airstrikes. In the first half of 2017, at least 1,218 civilian casualties have been caused by the Coalition. A 190% increase from the same period last year. Remarkably, the British Royal Air Force deny their air-strikes have caused any civilian casualties.

The US are said to have carried out, in total, approximately 95% of all Coalition airstrikes in Syria and 68% in Iraq. There have also been indications that under President Trump, protections for civilians on the battlefield may have been lessened, which could explain the rise in civilian casualties.

Iain Overton, AOAV’s Executive Director, said: “This dramatic rise in civilian deaths from air strikes should be a wakeup call to the international community that peace cannot be delivered with an air-dropped payload. Airstrikes have fuelled the refugee crisis, they drive young men into the arms of extremism, and they have devastated the lives of countless families. The deep reverberating effects of these bombs are yet unknown but they will be terrible.

AOAV believes states must recognise the civilian impact of explosive weapons with wide-area impacts, and stop using such weapons in populated areas. The charity has consistently found that when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, over 90% of the casualties are likely to be civilians. The harm caused by the use of these weapons in civilian areas not only causes immediate death and injury but also destroys homes and other infrastructure civilians depend upon.

The data can be seen here.