An airstrike by the American-led military coalition in northern Syria this week killed eight civilians, including two women and five children, according to neighbors and relatives of the dead.
The episode revived accusations by monitoring groups that the United States and its allies are not careful enough about who is killed by the air campaign against militant groups.
The target of the strike, mounted late Tuesday in Atmeh, a village near the Turkish border, was a munitions factory run by an Islamist rebel group. The strike left a yawning crater strewed with mortar shells. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said 10 foreign fighters had been killed.
But the explosions also caused the roofs of nearby homes to collapse, witnesses said.
There’s so much wrong here it is difficult to know where to begin. The administration sold the public on a limited air campaign as a way to make it seem that we’re not really at war again. There’s a misbegotten notion that the 21st century version of an air war is supposed to be precise all the time, and it often is. The problem here is not really on our end, however:
The episode highlighted the complex social dynamics in rebel-controlled areas of Syria, where armed groups often operate in civilian communities and sometimes provide services that are sorely lacking after more than four years of war.
The various incarnations of psychotic Islamic terror groups are known for making sure they have plenty of civilian padding around them so they can scream about the Americans (or the Israelis) being baby killers.
No one wants to support the killing of civilians, but war is war, even when you’re pretending it’s not, and innocent people do get killed. When we subject our fighters to insane rules of engagement, or have monitoring groups using the New York Times as their mouthpiece to complain, the end result is usually that the war isn’t resolved quickly enough and even more innocents are killed, but by the enemy we are trying to eliminate.