The United States has adopted a controversial Israeli tactic in the fight against Daesh (ISIL) terrorists, exploding a missile above a building to warn bystanders of an impending airstrike, a US general says.
The US military first implemented the tactic, known as a “knock-on-the-roof” operation, to warn civilians using a Hellfire missile before striking a suspected Daesh cash house in the Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this month, the US commander in charge of military operations in Iraq and Syria told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday.
The inspiration came from watching Israeli forces that have used the controversial tactic during assaults on Gaza, Major General Peter Gersten added. “That’s exactly where we took the tactics and technique and procedure from.”
Gersten did not say whether the Israeli military had formally briefed US commanders on how to use the tactic.
The Israeli military claims that roof-knocking is an effective method of warning to avoid civilian casualties. Critics, however, say the bombs used are themselves powerful enough to damage an entire building, causing possible physical harm and inducing tremendous fear to residents inside.
The Baghdad-based commander said intelligence indicated that “non-combatants,” including a woman and children, were using the cash-storage facility in Mosul ahead of an airstrike to blow it up on April 5.
“We went as far as actually to put a Hellfire on top of the building and air burst it so it wouldn’t destroy the building, simply knock on the roof to ensure that she and the children were out of the building,” he said. “Then we proceeded with our operations.”
However, the tactic failed to save the woman’s life as she reportedly ran back inside after US forces launched the follow-up strike to destroy the building.
“Much as we tried to do exactly what we wanted to do and minimize civilian casualties, post-weapons release, she actually ran back into the building,” Gersten said. “That’s … very difficult for us to watch.”
The commander said several men had also fled the building. It is not known whether they were Daesh operatives.
News of the operation comes shortly after the Pentagon admitted over 40 civilians have been killed in US airstrikes against purported Daesh positions.
The US is positioning a long-range artillery system in southern Turkey to conduct more strikes in Syria, Gersten said at the briefing.
The White House has in recent weeks moved to ramp up military operations in Iraq and Syria, including deployment of additional special forces in those countries.