Barrel Bombs Hit Residential Areas
"(Baghdad) – Iraqi government forces battling armed groups in the western province of Anbar since January 2014 have repeatedly struck Fallujah General Hospital with mortar shells and other munitions, Human Rights Watch said today. The recurring strikes on the main hospital, including with direct fire weapons, strongly suggest that Iraqi forces have targeted it, which would constitute a serious violation of the laws of war.
Since early May, government forces have also dropped barrel bombs on residential neighborhoods of Fallujah and surrounding areas, part of an intensified campaign against armed opposition groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). These indiscriminate attacks have caused civilian casualties and forced thousands of residents to flee.
“The government has been firing wildly into Fallujah’s residential neighborhoods for more than four months, and ramped up its attacks in May,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch. “This reckless disregard for civilians is deadly for people caught between government forces and opposition groups.”
The armed groups fighting against government forces in Anbar, including ISIS, say they have executed captured Iraqi soldiers. ISIS has also claimed responsibility for suicide and car bomb attacks against civilian targets in other parts of Iraq in response to the assault on Fallujah. Human Rights Watch has found that ISIS abuses probably amount to crimes against humanity.
In Fallujah, ISIS has planted improvised explosive devices along the main highway and other parts of city, and is operating prisons in Fallujah and elsewhere, Fallujah residents said.
Six witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed, three of them hospital staff, gave credible accounts of repeated strikes by government forces on Fallujah’s main hospital since January that have severely damaged buildings and injured patients and medical staff. An Iraqi government security officer based in Anbar, who spoke to Human Rights Watch on condition of anonymity, said government forces have targeted the hospital with mortars and artillery on 16 separate occasions.
The three hospital employees said mortar shells and projectiles had at various times struck the emergency room, the intensive care unit, the central air conditioning unit, a trailer that housed Bangladeshi hospital staff, and other parts of the hospital. The attacks injured four Bangladeshi workers, three Iraqi doctors, and an unknown number of patients, they said.
Such accounts of repeated strikes over four months, corroborated by photographs of apparent damage to the hospital, strongly indicate the hospital has been targeted, Human Rights Watch said......"