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US Air Forces Central Command image

This US Air Forces Central Command image from video shows US Air Force B-1B Lancer after refueling in the US Central Command area of responsibility prior to strike operations in Syria on September 27, 2014. (Photo: AFP – US Air Forces Central Command )

The standard the US imposed to limit civilian deaths from drone strikes will not apply to military operations in Syria and Iraq, according to a US official.

According to National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, the standard US President Barack Obama imposed would not apply to US military operations in Syria and Iraq, as it applies only to “outside areas of active hostilities.”

“That description—outside areas of active hostilities—simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now,” she told The Anadolu Agency, noting that military operations in Syrian and Iraq against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are still conducted in line with “the law of armed conflict.”

That law prohibits the deliberate targeting of civilian areas and require armed forces to take precautions to prevent inadvertent civilian deaths as much as possible.

Obama set the US standard for the strikes last year during a speech last year at National Defense University. “Before any strike is taken, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set,” he said.

A Yahoo News report says the White House acknowledged that it would loosen its strike policy with respect to civilian casualties during ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria.

As many as a dozen civilians, including women and children, were reportedly killed by a Tomahawk missile strike Sept. 23 in the village of Kafr Daryan in the Idlib province of Syria.

Washington has been criticized at home and abroad for the civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Afghanistan Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen as the US wages a global war on terror against terror groups.

As the debate continues, US military forces continued to attack ISIS positions in Syria on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“In Syria, three strikes near Kobani destroyed an ISIL (ISIS) armed vehicle, artillery piece and tank.,” US Central Command said in a statement.

In Iraq, British and US jets conducted three strikes northwest of Mosul that destroyed two ISIL armed vehicles, an ISIS occupied building, and struck two ISIS fighting positions.

The two states conducted a strike in the vicinity of Haditha Dam that destroyed an ISIS armed vehicle while another strike northwest of Baghdad destroyed two armed vehicles.

So far this week, Arab allies of the US have not been involved in airstrikes on ISIS targets.

US strikes killing civilians

Apparent US missile strikes killed at least seven civilians in northwestern Syria, a watchdog group said last Sunday, calling for a probe into possible violations of the laws of war.

New York-based Human Rights Watch cited three residents of the Syrian village of Kafr Deryan in Idlib province as saying via Skype that missiles killed at least two men, two women and five children in the early hours of Tuesday.

“The United States and its allies in Syria should be taking all feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians,” HRW deputy Middle East director Nadim Houry said in a statement.

“The US government should investigate possible unlawful strikes that killed civilians, publicly report on them and commit to appropriate redress measures in case of wrongdoing.”

Locals told HRW that a series of missiles struck a Nusra compound, including a weapons depot, just outside the village. But moments later, missiles struck two homes in Kafr Deryan proper, according to the witnesses, who cited the casualties by name.

Residents told HRW that there were no Nusra facilities or property inside the village.

“The reported killing of at least seven civilians in strikes in which there may have been no legitimate military target nearby raises concerns that the strikes were unlawful under the laws of war and should be investigated,” HRW said.

“The US government should investigate credible allegations of violations of the laws of war, such the strikes on Kafr Deryan, and publish its findings.”

The group urged Washington to recognize that the US government failed to discriminate between combatants and civilians, or unlawfully caused civilian loss disproportionate to the expected military advantage.

An activist who spoke to the rights group said that six other civilians — three children and three women — were also killed in the strikes, but HRW was unable to verify the claim. He said 15 others, among them women and children, were injured.

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SOURCE: Al-Akhbar, Anadolu, AFP

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