UNITED NATIONS (CN) — The United Nations unveiled two letters Monday in which Syria’s ambassador denounced the toll that U.S.-led airstrikes have had on his nation’s oil and gas reserves, as well as civilian population.
“The aerial bombardment carried out by aircraft of the so-called coalition under the pretext of countering terrorism continues to take the lives of innocent Syrian civilians, destroy infrastructure and installations and cause enormous financial losses, in excess of tens of billions of dollars, to the Syrian economy,” Bashar Ja’afari said on Aug. 3, two days before U.S.-led coalition forces targeted the Islamic State group with eight airstrikes in Syria and another 22 in Iraq.
Though the pair of missives to the United Nations Security Council are both dated earlier this month, the United Nations did not make translations of the letters public until Monday.
Ja’afari, an ambassador from Syria’s permanent mission to the United Nations, takes a sharply different view of the airstrikes than that touted by the United States.
“Coalition forces are achieving debilitating effects against the enemy,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said on Aug. 5.
Ja’afari’s Aug. 3 letter, which the UN also made public for the first time Monday, includes a chart documenting the toll of “the repeated bombings being carried out by the warplanes of the so-called international coalition led by the United States.”
It says an oil-tank bombing of the Furat Petroleum company on April 23, 2017, cost it alone $10.8 million in damage.
The Syrian government tallies direct damages from coalition airstrikes at more than $2.3 billion between 2014 and 2017, plus more than an additional $134 million in indirect damages such as production delays during that period.
“The bombings have also cut off or limited the access of Syrian civilians to a number of services, most notably power, heating, transportation, food and medicine,” Ja’afari wrote.
Ja’afari drives at the human toll in his second letter, dated one day after the Aug. 5 airstrikes. That bombing, he says, killed 43 civilians and injured dozens more — chiefly women, children and elderly people.
Another bombing by the U.S.-led coalition, just the day before on Aug. 4, killed eight civilians, Ja’afari added.
“The international coalition led by the United States of America has targeted residential neighbourhoods and civilian homes, destroyed Raqqah national hospital and systematically used internationally prohibited white phosphorus,” the Aug. 6 letter states. “Those actions are a flagrant violation of international law and international humanitarian law.”
Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, emphasized that a review of civilian-casualty reports is still underway.
“U.S. and Coalition forces work diligently to be precise in our airstrikes,” Jacques said in a statement. “U.S. and Coalition forces comply with the Law of Armed Conflict and take all feasible precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to non-combatants. Until the assessments of civilian casualty reports are completed, it would be inappropriate to discuss specific details.”
The Geneva Conventions and other international agreements ban using white phosphorous in civilian-populated areas, where they can cause severe burns and organ failure.
The New York Times reported evidence that U.S.-led forces used them earlier this year on June 10.
The U.S. and Western militaries contend that it does not violate international law to use incendiary weapons like white phosphorous as a smokescreen to hide troop movements.