Fri, 18 Oct 2019

Civilians account for majority of casualties of war

By Jay Jackson, Honolulu News.Net
19 Sep 2019, 04:10 GMT+10

Proponents of war the world over are causing carnage on an unprecedented scale with most of the casualties being civilians.

War is raging in many countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen, with current threats of war with Iran, and Israel proposing escalations in Gaza and Lebanon.

Wars in some areas have become so prolonged casualties and devastation no longer feature on the front page, but have now become ho-hum news, relegated to the back page.

With some fifty million people in urban areas currently suffering from the impact of armed conflict, war in cities "cannot be back page news," the UN Secretary-General and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross warned on Wednesday.

Antnio Guterres and Peter Maurer issued a joint appeal which calls on countries and warring parties to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

Whilst many governments talk of barbaric attacks by militant groups using make-shift weapons and home-made bombs, western governments have the most sophisticated weaponry ever invented, more lethal and expansive than ever. Dropping bombs or sending drones to do assassinations is no less barbaric than what rag-tag armies and the worst of the extremists can conjure up.

"When cities are bombed and shelled - whether by airstrikes, rockets, artillery or improvised explosive devices - civilians overwhelmingly bear the brunt," the UN and Red Cross leaders said Wednesday in their joint statement.

"In fact, the large majority of casualties, over 90 per cent, according to one estimate, are civilians."

"The harrowing images from population centres in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine to name but a few show a pattern of grave civilian harm impossible to ignore, yet too often forgotten," they said.

Armed conflict in cities also damages and destroys hospitals, electric power plants and other infrastructure required for the functioning of basic services, thus adding to the suffering experienced by civilians.

Those who survive find that life becomes unbearable and they are often forced to flee, such as the approximately 100,000 people displaced by heavy bombing and shelling in fighting around Tripoli, Libya, which began in April.

Massive destruction also threatens development gains. "For example, after the first four years of the armed conflict in Yemen, human development indicators dropped to their index of 20 years ago. This is a major setback to the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals. Progress gained over decades can be quickly reversed as once lively and prospering population centres turn into ghost towns", they said.

The UN and Red Cross chiefs say they encourage countries to identify and share good practices for mitigating the risk of civilian harm in urban armed conflict, such as restrictions on the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.

They are urging warring parties to employ strategies and tactics that reduce urban fighting while also allowing civilians to leave besieged areas.

The appeal points out that Idlib, in Syria, as well as Tripoli, are currently enduring "untold suffering and destruction from a hail of bombs and shells", but they are among a long list of other affected cities such as Mosul, Aleppo, Raqqa, Taiz, Donetsk, Fallujah and Sana'a.

"They rarely make the top headlines, but they should," the two leaders said. "War in cities cannot be back-page news."

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