US F15-E jets in northern Iraq (file)
US F15-E jets in northern Iraq (file) Reuters

Ten civilians have allegedly been killed by US airstrikes in the last several days, a rights group said, but Washington claims there is "no evidence" to back up the report. 

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), seven civilians were killed on Friday when an air strike hit a gas plant near al-Khasam in the Deir al-Zor province, a hot spot for Islamic State (ISIS) growth in the region.

Three additional civilians had been killed on Thursday, SOHR said, during an airstrike in the northeast province of al-Hassakah. 

Washington sidestepped the charges, however, claiming there is "no evidence" that civilians were killed. 

“We have seen no evidence at this time to corroborate claims of civilian casualties. I can assure you that before any mission, every precaution is taken to ensure civilians are not harmed,” US Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder stated Saturday.

“Regardless, we take reports of civilian casualties or damage to civilian facilities seriously and we have a process to investigate each allegation.”

The denial follows a US declaration earlier this month that White House policy banning drone strikes on civilians "does not apply" in the current campaign in Iraq and Syria, now named "Operation Inherent Resolve."

National Security Council official Caitlyn Hayden stated that the prohibition against civilian casualties “only when we take direct action ‘outside areas of active hostilities,’” and that “that description - outside areas of active hostilities - simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now.” 

US President Barack Obama, the Pentagon, and a host of military officials have, similarly, downplayed the importance of civilian casualties, after news of the dismissal caused some controversy in international media. 

"To suggest that we can do a clean war with near certainty that we won't have civilian casualties I think simply is misleading the American people," Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" three weeks ago. "We haven't done that in the history of warfare and I don't think that history has changed." 

Double-standard?

US regard for the "history" of civilian casualties seems to change with the audience, since it has expressed "concern" over the "civilian casualty" rate Hamas touted in Gaza, during this summer's Operation Protective Edge. 

In July, the US joined the international call for Israel to "do more" to prevent "civilian casualties" in Gaza, despite evidence later proving that half of the more than 2,000 Palestinian Arabs who died in the conflict were likely associated with Hamas

"We would like the Israelis to take even greater steps to ensure the protection of civilians," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at the time. 

Earnest said it was "unacceptable" for Hamas "to continue firing rockets squarely at Israeli civilians."

"At the same time, we also want to make sure that Israel is doing everything that they can to live up to their own standards related to protecting the welfare and well-being of innocent civilian bystanders," he said. 

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