Unmanned drone (illustration)
Unmanned drone (illustration)Reuters

The US's drone strike campaign in the Middle East has killed an unprecedented number of civilians, new data on the strikes reveals Wednesday.

Terrorists only comprise 3.5% of the people who have died from "targeted killings," the data, from human rights group Reprieve, reveals. Out of 1,147 people killed in targeted airstrikes, just 41 were targets. The data was reported in the British Guardian

The study, an in-depth analysis of reports by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, also gave a breakdown of attacks by country. 

In Pakistan, for example, the US targeted 24 men over the past three years - and it has resulted in the death of 874 people. Numerous strikes were aimed at each target, the data shows - but despite the endless attempts, just six of the targets actually died in the drone strikes. Among the dead were 142 children.

Similarly, strikes on 17 targets in Yemen killed 273 people, including seven children. At least four of the targets are reportedly still alive.

The Reprieve study only demonstrates part of the full picture of US drone strikes, and does not include targets who were pursued just once - or targets who were eliminated using "signature strikes" which involve detailed tracking of a target's behavior. 

To account for this, the Guardian cites a Council on Foreign Relations tally assesses that 500 drone strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan have killed 3,674 people.

In October, the White House declared that its policy banning drone strikes on civilians "does not apply" in the current campaign in Iraq and Syria, now named "Operation Inherent Resolve." 

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

A detailed study after Operation Protective Edge later proved 49% of the casualties in Gaza were terrorists, meaning the IDF achieved a 1:1 civilian to combatant ratio almost unprecedented in urban warfare.

But it was not enough for some US officials, including the State Department. 

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

At least one US official gave Israel open praise for its efforts, however: General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties," Dempsey said earlier this month.

"In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you're going to be criticized for civilian casualties," he added.