The United Kingdom Defense Secretary claims Russian airstrikes across Syria may have killed several hundred civilians and pose a threat to Western forces.
According to the Independent, the United Kingdom Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, expressed his opinion in an interview with the BBC that Russian President Vladimir Putin is extending the war by primarily targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s threats instead of targeting the terrorist group, ISIS.
“What [Russia] is doing is propping up the Assad regime, making the resolution of all this more difficult. They are prolonging the conflict and civilians are being killed. The RAF strikes are done to very strict rules of engagement. They’ve been striking in Iraq for a year where so far there have been no civilian casualties. The Russians have been at it in Syria for a couple of weeks and independent reports estimate that they’ve killed several hundred people already.”
The Defense Secretary also expressed worry that Russian war planes could possibly pose a threat to the United Kingdom’s planes, since there is evidence that Russia has already supposedly crossed over into Turkish airspace. Russia has also had several close calls in the skies with United States aircraft.
However, despite the threat of possible altercations with Russia in the airspace over Syria, the United Kingdom Defense Secretary did not think the United Kingdom should scale back its efforts to attack ISIS from the air.
Regardless of Fallon’s stance on the United Kingdom’s involvement in the war against ISIS, there are some in the British government who do not think the United Kingdom has a place in the skies over Syria.
Former Scottish first leader Alex Salmond explained that as a military strategy, staging a few airstrikes against ISIS isn’t really having an impact, but it could be harming innocent civilians.
Several groups monitoring the situation in Syria believe Russia has already harmed several hundred citizens with its airstrikes.
According to Human Rights Watch, Russia has struck buildings, including a school, where no military establishments were located nearby. Several civilians, including children, were killed, and others were wounded in those airstrikes.
“Now Syrian civilians may have to worry about Russian attacks even when they are in neighborhoods without apparent military targets,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director. “Russia’s priority should be to protect civilians in Syria and take all possible precautions to avoid harming them.”
Fallon reminded skeptics of the United Kingdom’s involvement in airstrikes in Syria of the British blood which lay at the feet of ISIS.
He said, “Don’t let us forget that ISIL [ISIS] beheaded British hostages, they were behind the slaughter of 30 British holidaymakers on a beach in Tunisia.”
The United Kingdom Defense Secretary pointed out that he saw no evidence that Russia had closed off the skies in Syria, because the United States and other allies currently have access to the country. He pointed out that ISIS operates in a remote part of the country, away from where Russia is currently operating, and British planes could operate there with other allied planes.
As Syrians flee their homeland, European nations must take on the added stress of refugees. The United Kingdom is also struggling to resettle the Syrians who have had to flee their homeland, and the stress of watching Russia add more pressure to the refugees is building.
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