By Whitney Webb
An airstrike this Tuesday in the small Syrian village of Hassadjek left six civilians dead and injured four more. Though no Russian or Syrian forces were operating in the area, radar data has proven that two Belgian F-16 jets, working on behalf of the US-led coalition, were the only planes operating in the area at the time of the attack.
The village was located in the Aleppo province in Northern Syria, which has been the focus of international scrutiny due to the heavy fighting taking place in the province’s capital Aleppo, once Syria’s most populous city. Western countries allied with the US have accused Russian and Syrian forces of killing civilians in their bombing campaign to drive ISIS and other anti-government rebels from the city. The village attack, however, occurred while the Russian and Syrian air forces were grounded due to a 48-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Aleppo province. The US and other coalition countries have remained silent about the bombing.
Belgium has fiercely denied its involvement. Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput said Belgium was “not involved in [the] Aleppo strike. [It’s] Russian disinformation.” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said Vandeput was either “deliberately deceiving people in Belgium and elsewhere in the world, or his subordinates and the Americans are lying to the leadership of Belgium.” Russia has continued to press Belgium to admit its involvement.
Furthermore, Russia has released evidence gathered from radar data that shows two Belgian jets flew from the Muwaffaq Salti airbase in Jordan and were immediately identified upon entering Syrian airspace, as all aircraft have a unique identifiable signature. The Belgian planes then carried out a night strike in the village, just two hours after take-off. After conducting the bombing, the planes refueled and continued patrolling around the city of Azaz in Northwestern Syria before leaving Syria and entering Iraq.
Neither Belgium nor the US notified Russia or Syria of the planes’ whereabouts, which Konashenkov noted went against the usual practice. However, the US-led operation in Syria has frequently refused to coordinate or cooperate with Syria’s sovereign government, choosing instead to “go their own way.” Belgium’s denial of the bombing is also indicative of the unaccountability and irresponsibility shown by the US-led coalition in Syria, which is technically illegal according to international law. One such example was the coalition bombing of Syrian army soldiers at an air base near Deir el-Zour, which killed 62 soldiers and injured more. However, the US at least admitted that the event occurred and called it “a mistake.” Another similar “mistake” took place this past July when US forces killed 28 civilians, mostly women and children, in the town of Manbij. The US initially claimed that those killed were insurgents, but eventually changed their story when the civilian casualties were revealed.
The “accidental” bombings in both Manbij and Deir el-Zour allowed ISIS to advance in those territories, both of which are critical, strategic areas. This has raised doubts as to whether the US-led coalition is actually fighting ISIS at all. Indeed, before Russia entered the picture, the coalition’s bombing campaign allowed ISIS to triple its territory, though Russian-Syrian cooperation has reversed this trend. Though the US-ISIS relationship remains murky, many experts agree that the coalition is allowing terrorist groups, such as Al-Nusra, in order to back the US’ ultimate goal of destabilizing and overthrowing the government of Bashar Al-Assad.
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