News / Middle East

    US Notes 'Troubling' Rise in Civilian Deaths From Russian Airstrikes in Syria

    FILE - Russian military support crew attach a satellite-guided bomb to an SU-34 jet fighter at Hmeimim airbase in Syria, Oct.  3, 2015.
    FILE - Russian military support crew attach a satellite-guided bomb to an SU-34 jet fighter at Hmeimim airbase in Syria, Oct. 3, 2015.
    VOA News

    The Obama administration said Tuesday that there had been a "marked and troubling" increase in civilian casualties in Syria since Russia began airstrikes in September.

    Human rights groups report hundreds of civilians have been killed by Russian missile strikes on emergency medical workers, hospitals, schools and markets.

    State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Secretary of State John Kerry brought up the matter in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

    "We've consistently urged all sides of the conflict to take all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harming civilians and comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law," Toner said.

    Russia has denied causing civilian deaths in Syria. It says its airstrikes against what it calls "terrorists" are carefully coordinated with the Syrian army to avoid all civilian targets.

    Russia has said its mission in Syria is directed against Islamic State. The U.S. says Russia has been targeting the moderate opposition and is trying to prop up President Bashar al-Assad's floundering government.

    Toner also said the killing of a top Syrian rebel leader last week complicated efforts for a cease-fire.

    An airstrike fired either by Russia or Syrian forces killed Zahran Alloush, the head of an opposition group called Jaysh al-Islam. The group fought against Islamic State while backing a political settlement.

    Toner called such killings "counterproductive."

    "When we see these kinds of actions taken against their leadership ... it is our hope that it does not send a discouraging message to other members of the Syrian opposition who have gone to Riyadh, who have expressed a willingness to take part in this process," he said.

    The United Nations is looking to convene international talks on Syria on January 25.

    The U.N. brokered two rounds of peace negotiations between the Syrian government and rebels early last year, but those talks broke apart with little progress.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: Anonymous
    January 02, 2016 2:49 AM
    US military experts and the news media pundits and propagandists call these terrorists families and supporters, civilians, when they are killed in the Russian and Assad Syrian army bombing attacks, even though these so-called "civilians" are on the frontlines supplying food, water, ammunition and other assistance to the ISIL or other terrorist groups?

    See the following article for an example from a news report right here on VOA.

    by: Anonymous
    December 31, 2015 2:46 AM
    Assad and his army killed the most unarmed civillians.
    Not only should assad be held accountable for each and every one, Putin should be accountable as well. My guess is neither Putin nor assad is compensating any victims of war (homes destroyed, businesses destroyed, family members killed, etc). A true crime. Terrorism is the act of terror, if dropping bombs in populated areas is not terror, what is?????
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    January 02, 2016 3:50 AM
    What utter naivete... This is a guerrilla war waged by heavily armed militants against a government, who has to deal with insurgents hiding in populated areas, essentially holding civilians as hostages. There are two options attack them and accept the "collateral" damage or lay siege to the area and make ALL the civilians suffer.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    December 31, 2015 12:11 AM
    Dumb bombs, dumb Russians, dumb strategy, can't work.

    Did Russian pilots kill a lot of innocents? Of course they did. The pilot who shot down KAL007 got a medal. They only complain when it's their citizens who get killed or when it can be blamed on the US whether it's true or not.

    Will what's left of Syria's rag tag army defeat IS after four exhausting years of war? Who knows. But if anyone was confident they could, why is Iran asking China to send troops? Do you think China will? I don't think so. There's nothing in it for them. Not enough oil in Syria to matter.

    by: Willy Van Damme from: Belgium
    December 30, 2015 2:51 PM
    Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch produced their dossier solely based on unverified claims made by these Salafist head choppers. They are a disgrace. It should also be corrected: Russia did always say they were in Syria to fight ISIS, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups tied to these.

    by: Anonymous
    December 30, 2015 12:01 PM
    It seems putin is doing the same thing in Syria as he did in Chechnya. If this is the case, indiscriminately bombing, the International Criminal Court should be knocking on his door. Assad should be charged too. Genocide is serious business.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    December 31, 2015 12:17 AM
    Putin will eventually face justice but I don't think it will be in the Hague. I think it will be in Russia by the oligarchs...or in London when he starts to run from them. Russia's best thugs love London for assassinations and other sports. It's a KGB amusement park to them. People like Lugovoy must be dumb as a stump. Had he defected to the US he could have vanished into the crowd, been given a new identity, been living in Puerto Vallarta, or Costa Rica or anywhere. Instead he made it so easy for them. Did someone say chess is their national game?

    by: Quoc Tuan from: Vietnam
    December 29, 2015 11:53 PM
    I am to fed up with lies without evidence from Western media as well as from NGOs funded by the West. Russia has never targeted innocent civilians in Syria, not like the US and its allies.
    It is the US which must stop their killings of civilians in Syria and Iraq.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    December 29, 2015 11:43 PM
    IF the US is troubled by Russia doing anything, it'd have to be the great success of the Russian bombing campaign that's helping the Shia Muslim led government of Assad and the Syrian army recapture lost territory back from the ISIL, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups? .. When it looked like the end was near for Assad and the Syrian government, Russia stepped in and saved them?

    It's not the rumors of Russian bombs killing some innocent civilians, [and it's not], the tens of thousands of innocents being raped, enslaved, tortured and killed, or the millions of innocents becoming homeless migrants, [no], what's really troubling the US is the Russians helping Assad stay in power?

    by: anynmous from: usa
    December 29, 2015 11:17 PM
    Based on the opinion that avoiding civilian is impossible because isis use civilian as a human shield . Obama is fighting isis years and he has not eliminating them because the manner to conduct air strike is ineffective . the decision is to defeat isis carrying the risk of civilian to be killed. it is not the fault of the manner of jihadist whom are acting like a woman and hide among children . Obama you have the chance to end the war but you did not

    by: Rodney from: Australia
    December 29, 2015 9:38 PM
    Are they counting the civilian deaths caused to the Tanker Drivers [10,000 to 20,000] who are delivering ISIS and Al Nusra oil from Syria and Iraq through Turkey. To me they are not Civilians. They are mercenaries on high pay. Not much risk prior to Russia starting to bomb them. Typical two faced Sanctimonious USA. Thousands killed in Iraq when they bombed almost every power station, communications center etc.etc. All Civilian staff. How many 25,000 - 100,000??
    Just go back a few years and look at Civilian Deaths from US bombing and the use of Agent Orange [Dioxin in effect. The most deadly Chemical Agent known to man. Chemical Warfare in effect and US authorities were aware of how dangerous it was.] in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos etc. Estimates vary from 1.5million to 3.5million plus an estimated 1/2 million birth defects.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora