'Fair Chance' US Ops Contributed to Civilian Deaths in Mosul - CENTCOM Commander

Votel noted that there has been no change in the rules of engagement and CENTCOM is doing "everything humanely possible" to prevent civilian casualties as the result of its operations.

Army General Joseph Votel said during a congressional hearing that in addition to the casualties in western Mosul, the battle for eastern Mosul had lead to 490 members of the Iraqi security forces being killed with over 3,000 wounded.

Iraq's ministry of defense also blamed ISIS for the deaths saying they planned the incident to "impact the civilians, to inflame the public and to convey a wrong message to the world that the joint forces and the global coalition are behind the killing and bombings".

An estimated 215,000 people are now displaced as a result of the ongoing military operations to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group, according to the United Nations. Iraqi forces have seized back most of the country's second-largest city from the Sunni hardline group in a massive six-month campaign.

A USA probe into the incident has moved from an assessment to a more formal investigation, Votel said. American officials said Daesh use civilians as human shields in locations where terror operations are being conducted.

In addition, hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in a number of separate attacks in recent weeks, the website said.

"It is there that the enemy has invested two-and-a-half years of defensive preparations", he said, calling it the "toughest phase" of the war.

Residents carry the body of several people killed in Mosul, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017. The Pentagon had always been very evasive about the incident so far, confirming they'd bombed the buildings but insisting they are still investigating the question of whether they'd killed any civilians.

Votel said the investigation will look at what Islamic State militants did to contribute to the civilian deaths in the March 17 strike.

Amnesty International on Tuesday said the rising death toll suggested the USA -led coalition wasn't taking adequate precautions as it helps Iraqi forces try to retake the city.

With the battle entering the densely populated areas of western Mosul, civilian casualties are becoming more of a risk. In the battles for Fallujah and Ramadi, those cities were entirely emptied of their civilian population while Iraqi forces fought to push out IS.

  • Leroy Wright