Tue Apr 18, 2017 1:43PM
Syrian civil defense volunteers attempt to rescue a body as they dig through the rubble of a mosque following an airstrike on a mosque in the village of Jineh in Aleppo province, March 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Syrian civil defense volunteers attempt to rescue a body as they dig through the rubble of a mosque following an airstrike on a mosque in the village of Jineh in Aleppo province, March 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Human Rights Watch says the US military failed to take "necessary precautions" to prevent dozens of civilian deaths last month in an airstrike that targeted a mosque full of people in a village west of Syria's city of Aleppo.

"United States forces appear to have failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties" in the strike on the village of Jineh on March 17, the HRW said in a report on Tuesday.

Ole Solvang, the HRW's deputy emergencies director, held the Unites States accountable for the civilian deaths. "The US seems to have gotten several things fundamentally wrong in this attack, and dozens of civilians paid the price."

"The US authorities need to figure out what went wrong, start doing their homework before they launch attacks, and make sure it doesn't happen again," Solvang said.

The HRW report is based on interviews with more than a dozen people with firsthand knowledge of the strike. The rights body also worked with organizations to analyze the imagery of the attack and reconstruct the assault.

"Any attempt to verify through people with local knowledge what kind of building this was would likely have established that the building was a mosque."

The rights group also stated that it had found no evidence that militants were inside the mosque.

Elsewhere in the report, the HRW said even if they had been "striking a mosque just before prayer and then attack people attempting to flee, without knowing whether they were civilians or combatants, may well have been disproportionate or indiscriminate."

"Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks violate the laws of war, as does failing to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian deaths."

The HRW said it had submitted its findings to the US Central Command. 

At least 49 civilians were killed and over 100 people were wounded in the airstrike on March 17. 

The US military confirmed the airstrike early after information emerged about it and said it would investigate reports of civilian casualties. Later, however, the Pentagon denied that a mosque had been hit. It said instead that the airstrike targeted “dozens” of al-Qaeda militants in a building adjacent to the mosque.

That assertion, however, had been open to doubt given a series of claims by people in the village and the information released by the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The monitoring group also said many people had been trapped under the collapsed mosque as rescue workers struggled to pull survivors from rubble, and dozens of residents had still been unaccounted for.

The US attack was carried out amid a countrywide ceasefire in Syria in parallel with a diplomatic process aimed at ending the crisis in the Arab country.

Syrian civil defense volunteers dig through the rubble of a mosque following a reported airstrike in the village of Jineh in Aleppo province, Syria, March 17, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US-led coalition killed more Syrian civilians than Daesh in March

According to figures released by a human rights organization, more Syrian civilians were killed by the US-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh than the Tafkiri terrorist group itself over the past month.

Figures show that the US-led coalition killed 260 civilians, including 70 children and 34 women, across Syria in March.

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh terrorists inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. It has also been involved in a similar campaign in neighboring Iraq.

The alliance has on many occasions attacked Syrian civilians, military and infrastructure under the guise of fighting the terror group.

There are also reports that the US-led attacks have on numerous occasions hampered counter-terrorism operations by Syrian armed forces.