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Recent Iraqi Air-strikes Killed 75 Civilians: Human Rights Watch

Iraq's security forces have killed at least 75 civilians and wounded hundreds of others in indiscriminate air strikes on four cities since June 6, according to Human Rights Watch. The New York-based human rights watchdog says it documented 17 airstrikes, the majority in the first half of July, in which barrel bombs were used.

Government forces launched the attacks, which because of their indiscriminate nature violate international law, while trying to retake areas controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) fighters and other Sunni armed groups. Despite repeated government denials, government forces have resumed the use of the deadly barrel bombs in populated areas of Fallujah, Human Rights Watch found.

"The Iraqi government may be fighting a vicious insurgency, but that's no license to kill civilians anywhere they think ISIS might be lurking," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

There was a consistent pattern of aerial bombardments in residential areas by government forces using helicopters, jets, and other aircraft. The attacks hit areas surrounding mosques, government buildings, hospitals, and power and water stations. Residents in Mosul, al-Sherqat, and the oil-refinery town of Beiji described to Human Rights Watch a pattern of intensifying strikes throughout the first half of July in areas where groups of civilians had gathered.

It called on the Iraqi government to immediately stop all indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas. HRW urged foreign governments providing military support and assistance to continue support only on the condition that the armed forces obey international humanitarian law and halt actions that disregard the consequences for civilians caught up in the conflict.

The United States has sent Iraq military aid, including Hellfire missiles, ammunition, and surveillance drones, since the Anbar conflict began in January and is debating other military initiatives in Iraq. In accordance with US law, though, it should immediately end its military assistance until the government of Iraq complies with international law, Human Rights Watch said.

HRW warned that "The Iraqi government's continued unlawful attacks, despite its denials of such attacks, indicates that Iraq may continue to use military assistance in ways that violate international law and harm Iraqi civilians who are trapped between the government forces and insurgents."

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