Alwaght-Human Rights Watch has blamed US authorities for failing to take all possible precautions to avoid civilian deaths in a recent attack on a Syrian mosque.
The report, released Tuesday, notes that although US officials claimed the building targeted on March 16 was a partially-constructed community hall, “information from local residents, photographs, and video footage of the building before and after the attack” show that it was also a mosque.
HRW’s deputy director for Middle East and North Africa division, Lama Fakih says that witnesses on the ground, video and photographic evidence, all confirm in fact that the building that was struck was a mosque.
It goes on to accuse US authorities of appearing to have “inadequately understood the pattern of life in the area,” noting that they said the attack happened after evening prayer – however, it actually occurred 15 minutes before night prayer.
"The airstrike took place in between the sunset and the evening prayer, at a time when US officials should have known that there would be people gathering in the mosque," Fakih said. "These strikes also took place on a Thursday, when there were religious lectures happening in the mosque..."
“Information about prayer times is easily accessible online and should have been well known by US authorities,” the report says.
HRW also says that it has not found any evidence to support the allegation that member of Al-Qaeda or any armed group were meeting at the building.
The human rights body notes that the laws of war prohibit attacks targeting civilians or civilian structures, along with indiscriminate attacks which fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets and where the civilian casualties or damage to civilian buildings is excessive to the military advantage gained.
Forty-six people were reportedly killed in last month’s attack in the village of Al-Jineh, in the northern province of Aleppo. US military officials have so far only admitted to bombing an Al-Qaeda meeting place, but have said they will investigate whether civilians were among those killed, and whether the building was part of a complex belonging to Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque.
New attack kills more civilians
Meanwhile, at least 15 civilians have lost their lives in an aerial attack by a US-led coalition that purports to be fighting ISIS in Syria.
According to Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Ahed news website, the US-led airstrike targeted a residential compound in the town of Albu Kamal in the southeastern countryside of Dayr al-Zawr.
The report added that most of the casualties were women and children.
The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against purported ISIS targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any mandate from United Nations or authorization by the Syrian government which has condemned violation of the country’s sovereignty.