US says mistaken coalition airstrikes in Syria were legal
The U.S. military on Tuesday blamed human error for what it called a mistaken coalition air assault Sept. 17 that reportedly killed dozens of Syrian soldiers. Targeters believed they were directing attacks on Islamic State fighters, and because this was an honest mistake the strikes did not violate the international law of armed conflict, U.S. military investigators concluded.
Multiple opportunities to avoid the mistake were missed in a sequence of events that began with the erroneous identification of a vehicle as belonging to IS and ended when a Russian military officer called a U.S. Russia telephone hotline to alert the Americans that the coalition strikes near Deir el-Zour were hitting Syrian government forces. The call prompted the Americans to halt the attacks, but the chief U.S. investigator said if word from the Russians had not been delayed 27 minutes, nearly half of the 30-plus strikes might not have been conducted.