Civilian casualties during Operation Allied Force

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Many human rights groups criticised civilian casualties resulting from military actions of NATO forces in Operation Allied Force. Both Serbs and Albanians were killed in 90 Human Rights Watch-confirmed incidents in which civilians died as a result of NATO bombing. It reported that as few as 489 and as many as 528 Yugoslav civilians were killed in the NATO airstrikes.[1][2][3] "There is always a cost to defeat an evil," said NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, "It never comes free, unfortunately. But the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is far higher." He insisted NATO planes had bombed only "legitimate designated military targets," and if more civilians had died it was because NATO had been forced into military action. He then defended this notion by stating, "NATO does not attack civilian targets, we attack exclusively military targets and take every precaution to avoid inflicting harm on civilians."[4]

Statistically speaking, civilian casualties were lighter than any other conflict involving modern mass airpower.[5] From the beginning of Operation Allied Force, NATO pledged to minimise civilian casualties. Consideration of civilian casualties was incorporated into NATO's planning and targeting process. Targets were "looked at in terms of their military significance in relation to the collateral damage or the unintended consequence that might be there," General Shelton said on April 14: "Then every precaution is made...so that collateral damage is avoided." According to Lt. Gen. Michael Short, "collateral damage drove us to an extraordinary degree. General Clark committed hours of his day dealing with the allies on issues of collateral damage." [6]

Incidents[edit]

April 5, 1999: Bombing of Aleksinac[edit]

Damage in Aleksinac
Damage in Novi Sad

On the night of April 5-6, 1999, 12 civilians were killed in the southern mining town of Aleksinac after it was struck by NATO forces.[7] A total of 35 homes and 125 apartment units were destroyed, with no obvious military target in the vicinity according to the Serbian newspaper Politika.[7]

April 12, 1999: Grdelica train bombing[edit]

NATO's attack on a railway bridge hit a passenger train, killing 14 and leaving 16 injured. The Belgrade-Thessaloniki train had been crossing the bridge near Leskovac, southern Serbia as the air-launched missile released several miles away reached its target.

April 14, 1999: Bombing of a refugee column[edit]

On April 14, during daylight hours, NATO aircraft repeatedly bombed Albanian refugee movements over a twelve-mile (19 km) stretch of road between Gjakova and Dečani in western Kosovo, killing seventy-three civilians and injuring thirty-six others Human Rights Watch (HRW) could document. The attack began at 1:29pm and persisted for about two hours, causing civilian deaths in numerous locations on the convoy route near the villages of Bistrazin, Gradis, Madanaj, and Meja.

April 23, 1999: Radio Television Serbia (RTS) headquarters bombing[edit]

One of the largest incidents of civilian deaths, and certainly the largest in Belgrade, was the bombing of state TV headquarters in Belgrade on April 23. As a consequence, sixteen RTS civilian technicians and workers were killed and sixteen were wounded. Dragoljub Milanovic was the director general of Serbian Radio and Television and belonged to former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia. He was found guilty and jailed for 10 years for intentional withholding information from his employees about the eventual bombing, which had a direct effect on the number of dead.[8]

April 27, 1999: First Bombing of Surdulica[edit]

At least 16 civilians were killed after two NATO missiles hit a residential area in the southern town of Surdulica. [1]

April 30, 1999: Bombing of Murino[edit]

On April 30, 1999, NATO bombs struck Murino, a village located near Plav in Montenegro, killing six civilians of whom three were under the age of 16.[9]

May 1, 1999: Bombing of Prizren[edit]

On May 1, 1999, at least 12 civilians were killed when a Romani neighborhood in Prizren was struck by NATO bombs.[10]

May 7, 1999[edit]

Cluster bombing of Niš[edit]

On May 7, 1999, cluster munitions were dropped on Niš, with 16 civilian deaths reported by Serbian sources.[11]

Chinese embassy bombing[edit]

A salvo of US JDAM GPS-guided bombs struck the embassy of the People's Republic of China in Belgrade, killing three Chinese diplomats and injuring 20 others. CIA director George Tenet later admitted in congressional testimony that the CIA had organised the strike and that it was the only strike of the campaign organised by his agency, though he still claimed it was accidental. China has never accepted the US explanation for the incident.

May 14, 1999: Bombing of Koriša[edit]

NATO planes bombed ethnic Albanians who NATO claimed had been used by Yugoslav forces as human shields.[12][13] Yugoslav troops took TV crews to the scene shortly after the bombing.[14] The Yugoslav government insisted that NATO had targeted civilians.[15]

May 19, 1999: Belgrade hospital strike[edit]

A NATO bombing attack led to the deaths of at least three patients in a Belgrade hospital. Parts of the Dragiša Mišović hospital, near a barracks in the Dedinje district, were reduced to rubble. NATO admitted a missile aimed at an army barracks in the Dedinje district, which is close to the hospital, went astray.[16]

May 30, 1999[edit]

Bombing of Varvarin[edit]

11 civilians were reported killed and a further 40 injured when NATO bombers mounted a daylight raid on a bridge in Varvarin, south-central Serbia. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the alliance had bombed a "legitimate designated military target".[4] However, a first-hand account of what happened was published in the Irish Times. Yugoslav sources said local people were attending the town's market when the attack happened at 1pm local time. Witnesses said four cars fell into the Velika Morava river. Rescuers who went to aid of the injured were hit in the second attack.

Second Bombing of Surdulica[edit]

NATO planes hit an old peoples' home at a sanatorium in south-eastern Serbia killing at least 11 people.[17]

May 31, 1999: Bombing of Novi Pazar[edit]

On May 31, 1999, a residential building was struck by a NATO bomb in Novi Pazar.[18] The BBC reported that "at least 10 civilians were killed",[19] whereas Blic reported that 11 civilians were killed.[18] Both sources reported that 20 people were injured in the bombing of Novi Pazar that day.[19][18]

Human Rights Watch analysis[edit]

A street in Belgrade destroyed by NATO bombs

Human Rights Watch documented and evaluated the impact and effects of the NATO military operation, and confirmed 90 incidents in which civilians died as a result of NATO bombing.These included attacks where cluster bombs were dropped.[20]

NATO strategy and claims[edit]

From the very beginning of Operation Allied Force, minimizing civilian casualties was a major declared NATO concern. According to NATO, consideration of civilian casualties was fully incorporated into the planning and targeting process. All targets were "looked at in terms of their military significance in relation to the collateral damage or the unintended consequence that might be there," General Shelton said on April 14: "Then every precaution is made...so that collateral damage is avoided." According to Lt. Gen. Michael Short, "collateral damage drove us to an extraordinary degree...[and] committed hours of [my] day dealing with the allies on issues of collateral damage." [21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo Archived 2009-05-13 at WebCite
  2. ^ Krieger, Heike (2001). The Kosovo conflict and international law. Cambridge University Press. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-521-80071-6. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  3. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo Archived 2009-05-13 at WebCite
  4. ^ a b "Civilian deaths 'necessary price'". BBC News. May 31, 1999. 
  5. ^ http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/10/06/the-imprecision-ofus-bombing-and-the-under-valuation-of-an-afghan-life.html
  6. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo Archived 2009-05-13 at WebCite
  7. ^ a b Toma Todorović (April 6, 2008). "Политика: Алексинац не заборавља жртве" (in Serbian Cyrillic). Retrieved June 20, 2017. 
  8. ^ http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-87581976.html
  9. ^ Amil Ibrahimagić (April 30, 2012). "Vijesti: U Murini obilježeno 13 godina od NATO bombardovanja" (in Serbian). Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  10. ^ Lukáš Houdek (translated into English by Gwendolyn Albert) (June 16, 2011). "Prizren in the shadow of aircraft". Retrieved June 20, 2017. 
  11. ^ M. Vučić (May 7, 2016). "Južne vesti: Krenuli na pijacu, pa poginuli od kasetnih bombi" (in Serbian). Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  12. ^ Englund (20 June 1999). "Refugees call Korisa a setup". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Krieger (2001). The Kosovo Conflict and International Law: An Analytical Documentation 1974-1999. Cambridge University Press. p. 352. ISBN 9780521800716. 
  14. ^ "NATO says target was military post". Sunday Free Lance-Star. 16 May 1999. 
  15. ^ "Once Again, NATO Admits Accidental Bombing Of Civilians". Chicago Tribune. 16 May 1999. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  16. ^ "NATO bomb hits hospital". BBC News. May 20, 1999. 
  17. ^ "NATO 'hit old people's home'". BBC News. May 31, 1999. 
  18. ^ a b c "Blic: Obeležen dan pogibije 11 civila u Novom Pazaru u NATO bombardovanju" (in Serbian). May 31, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  19. ^ a b "BBC: NATO 'bombs apartment block'". June 1, 1999. 
  20. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo Archived 2009-05-13 at WebCite
  21. ^ Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign - The Crisis in Kosovo Archived 2009-05-13 at WebCite

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