American forces have adopted Israeli military tactics employed in Gaza of dropping cautionary leaflets and knocker bombs intended to warn civilians of incoming attacks. The method was used outside of Mosul in a recent operation, yet a woman and a child were killed upon re-entering a building shortly after it was targeted by a hellfire missile. The deaths were disclosed by a Department of Defense official in a briefing yesterday on expanding U.S. forces in Iraq as it battles fighters with the Islamic State.
U.S. Air Force Major General Peter E. Gersten said the Israeli inspired procedure was used in an attempt to target a cash deposit holding funds for ISIS. However, the operation was unsuccessful in preventing civilian casualties.
“We employed the technique. We put leaflets down. Knock-offs were achieved. It was actually a very highly paced, precision event,” Gersten told reporters.
Gersten said the building in question was thought to store an estimated $150 million, and intelligence officials had monitored a male target responsible for moving the cash.
“We watched him come and go from his house, we watched his supplies, we watched the security that was involved in it,” Gersten said.
The wanted man was not the only person monitored.
“We also watched occasionally a female and her children in and out of the quarters,” he added.
“We formulated a plan to ensure that — that that particular, women and children and the non-combatants were clear of that objective,” Gersten said.
Once the precision weapon was launched Gersten noted, “we absolutely did see the woman and child leave,” adding, “interestingly enough, the men that were in that building, multiple men, literally trampled over her to get out of that building. And we watched her and observed her leaving the building. And she cleared the building, and we began to process the strike.”
Yet Gersten continued to explain the incident, “ultimately ended up in a civilian casualty” when the woman, “she actually ran back into the building. That’s a — we watched, very difficult for us to watch. And it was within the final seconds of the actual impact.”
The knocker missile and ensuring air-strike was filmed by the U.S. military. Gersten said the recording would be made available to the press at a later date.
When asked if the U.S. received any specialized training from the Israeli military, Gersten said the procedure was developed after observing Israeli military strategy. There was no coordination between the two armed forces, he said.
“But we have to understand that Daesh is into the fabric of the people. They are using the civilian force as human shields, and we will fight and do everything possible we can to keep those civilian casualties to an absolute, absolute minimum,” Gersten said, echoing the talking points Israel has used to justify its similar policy in Gaza.
In 2014 the U.S. began deploying American forces to an international Joint Task Force fighting ISIS in Iraq. The following year President Barack Obama approved American air strikes in the region.
The U.S. has sent 50 special forces operatives to Syria to fight ISIS. On Monday President Obama announced an additional 250 will be added in the coming weeks.