With the varying strategies of the conflicting parties in the area of Hajin, east of the Euphrates, the justifications each side uses to seek its own goals also differ under the cover of international laws and military ends which offer an explanation to murders committed against civilians.
Amidst the battles witnessed by eastern Deir z-Zor at the Iraqi borders, between the “Islamic State” (ISIS) and the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), the death toll is only rising with the daily death of civilians, who are falling victims to the fire of the actor sides without a deterrent to keep them away from the maps of the confrontation parties.
Backed by the US-led coalition, the “Syrian Democratic Forces” is undergoing military operations to control the Hajin enclave, considered the last of the “Islamic State’s” strongholds in the eastern area. The latter have also intensified its attacks in the past week to recapture the positions it lost, but the augmenting battles and the military variables were and are yet materializing at the expense of the civilians’ souls.
Victims to Different Strategies
Though they have fallen to the grip of the conflicting parties’ claws, and while their suffering is being neglected at the level of media and human rights, these parties are exploiting the besieged civilians to justify both loss and violations.
“SDF” attributed its losses and slow progress in the past weeks with fear for civilians, accusing the “Islamic State” of using them as human shields during its battles, especially in the attack which the refugees at the Hajin Camp suffered in mid-October.
However, the “Furat Post” network, Euphrates Post, casted doubt on the narrative offered by “SDF,” and the journalist Suhaib Jaber, a member of the network, has on Saturday, November 3, told Enab Baladi that “SDF” has captured about 700 civilians, who fled the ISIS-controlled areas, escaping the battles to other areas. It did not allow them to go on with their journey of displacement and is yet keeping hold of them in the area of Hajin, arresting many of them on the accusation of affiliation to ISIS.
According to Jaber, the “Islamic State” attacked the Hajin camp, seeking to bring back the detainees to the areas it is controlling, after which “SDF” accused it of kidnapping civilians and indulging them in the battles.
From a different standing point, the civilians’ presence in the areas controlled by the “Islamic State” makes them more liable to death as they move between military targets, in an area of no more than 225 square kilometers, in addition to the “Islamic State’s” policy that prevents them from leaving the area on the ground that they are its subjects.
The “Furat Post” network has documented the death of 43 civilians in Deir ez-Zor last month, including seven children who died under the attacks of the US-led coalition, and another 13 persons, of whom five died due to the landmines planted by “ISIS”, seven executed by the latter, and a woman killed by “SDF’s” weapons.
Under the two-way hit and run attacks, launched by “SDF” and “ISIS,” the civilians are turning into mere numbers, registered as data of casualties, deaths and injuries. However, these data are not mourning the dead or demanding justice for them but are rather mentioned in the context of the accusations exchanged by the conflicting parties, which seek hegemony.
It is difficult for the civilians to flee the recurrent shelling at the areas east to Deair ez-Zor, for the “Islamic State” is preventing them while “SDF” imposes many restrictions on them, as it calls them to escape to its areas only to hostage them. Thus, the people are stuck in the jaws of the conflicting parties’ trap and the hell of the battles.
Shy Human Rights Actions
Due to the repeated attacks and the massive waves of displacement, the UN has warned against the danger, threatening thousands of civilians, particularly internally displaced persons. In a report, issued on October 16, it stated that about a thousand civilians are at a risk in the Hajin area, eastern Deir ez-Zor, while about seven thousand civilians have escaped the area that has been witnessing battles for weeks now.
The UN report has concentrated on the ongoing violence in the areas of Hajin, al-Shaafah, al-Baghuz and Swiadan, accusing the “Islamic State” of attacking the internally displaced persons’ camp at Hajin area, which led to kidnapping many of them, while forcing many others to escape the area, according to the report.
Back then, Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said: “While UN partners were able to provide a one‑time delivery of food, nutrition and water, hygiene and sanitation assistance to some 5,000 displaced people, more assistance is needed to respond to the needs of displaced people and host communities.”
Due to the hostilities, according to UN, thousands of civilians are displaced to the “Syrian Democratic Forces” control areas, the majority of whom are settled in the Gharanij town, while other thousands are stranded in difficult to reach areas as a result of the intensifying battles and the opposing attacks.
Crimes Covered by International Laws
Under the cover of international laws, the US-led coalition has attacked two mosques in Hajin area, mid-October, which led to the death of dozens of civilians, justifying this by the “Islamic State’s” usage of these mosques as military posts.
The US-led coalition stated that it bombarded a number of buildings used by the “Islamic State” to launch attacks against the “Syrian Democratic Forces” at the al-Sousa town, adding that the shelling has targeted two mosques, “where ISIS has established two leadership and observation centers in the town of al-Sousa,” according to its description.
However, the death toll has reached 45 civilians, in addition to several others, injured during the raids. The “Furat Post” network has documented the usage of the white phosphorus munitions three times last month in the area of Hajin, in addition to more than 50 air raids.
The journalist Suhaib Jaber pointed out that the US-led coalition’s aircraft has intentionally targeted gatherings, including houses, public facilities and utilities and that it is not leaving the area’s sky.
Commenting on the two mosques incident, Pentagon Spokesman Col. Robert Manning said that places of worship are generally protected by the Geneva conventions “unless they are used for military purposes,” adding that “the law of land warfare protects mosques, but the use of these buildings as a headquarters by IS caused them to lose that protected status.”
|The Article “53” of 1977 Geneva Conventions provides for the following: Protection of cultural objects and of places of worship without prejudice to the provisions of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954, and of other relevant international instruments, it is prohibited:
(a) to commit any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples;
(b) to use such objects in support of the military effort;
(c) to make such objects the object of reprisals.