United States denies loosening rules for avoiding civilian casualties

As investigators probe the blast, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend strongly defended U.S. behavior in the war and pushed back against accusations the United States had loosened safeguards meant to protect civilians as it ramps up the battle against Islamic State.

"If we did it - and I'd say there is at least a fair chance we did - it was an unintentional accident of war", he said.

Airwars claimed there had been around 1,000 civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria in March alone due to coalition air strikes.

"The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of worldwide humanitarian law", senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera, who carried out field investigations in Mosul, said on Tuesday.

Amnesty's Donatella Rovera said field research in east Mosul - which was recaptured from IS in January - showed "an alarming pattern of US-led coalition air strikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside".

Prior to the controversial and terrifying airstrike, the Pentagon had released the total number of strikes its conducted under Operation Inherent Resolve since it began in August 2014.

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

But he said it was also possible that so-called Islamic State (IS) had rigged the building with explosives. "ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cages, and they're making a video record to prove it", he said. The Iraqi forces rescued the hostages before the militants killed them. "The people we're talking to say they were gathered there". Rupert Colville said IS militants are brazenly employing human shields, urging the coalition forces to "avoid this trap".

On March 22, an air strike hit a residential building in Rajm Hadid neighborhood.

Unfortunately for many of them, the perceived safety of their homes became their graves, as Iraqi and U.S. forces continue to target their houses.

Though the coalition review of the allegations is still underway, Townsend said initial indications are from "multiple corroborating streams" of information seem to indicate that only ISIS fighters were killed in the airstrike.

Under questioning from lawmakers, Votel repeated USA military assertions that the military rules of engagement have not been changed or relaxed to allow for more civilian casualties.

Republican Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, a retired Air Force colonel, questioned whether the high standards are "ridiculous", because they allow militants to use civilians as a defence against airstrikes so they can "live to fight another day".

Avoiding civilian casualties in Iraq will become more hard as the battle to recapture western Mosul from the Islamic State group intensifies, Army Gen. Joseph Votel told House lawmakers on Wednesday. He said the only change authorized late previous year was to allow certain combat decisions be made by USA commanders closer to the fight as the battle moved into the densely populated areas of the city.

Rescue teams work on the debris where more than 200 people were believed killed in Mosul last week. The United Nations is warning that the worst is to come in Mosul, where an estimated 400,000 are trapped in Iraq's second largest city.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain inside ISIS-controlled Mosul and the terror group continues to use civilians as human shields, concentrating them in their areas of operations to deter USA airstrikes.

US airstrikes probably played a role in the death of dozens of civilians in Mosul earlier this month, but an ongoing investigation may reveal a more complicated explanation, the top commander of American forces in Iraq said Tuesday.

  • Leroy Wright