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This report applies the rules of war governing international armed conflicts to examine civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects from bomb and missile attacks carried out by the allied forces against Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, and from missile attacks by Iraq against Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar. The report does not address civilian deaths and injuries, or damage to civilian objects, during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, the subject of previous and upcoming Middle East Watch (MEW) reports. Nor does it address possible violations of humanitarian law, or the laws of war, against combatants on either side in the conflict. Also beyond the scope of this report are the environmental damage and regional health hazards caused by the fires set in Kuwait's oil wells and the massive release of oil into the Persian Gulf.

The purpose of this report is to contribute to the public debate about the conduct of the Persian Gulf War and to draw attention to violations and possible violations of humanitarian law. In some cases it draws conclusions, and in others it requests from the U.S. Department of Defense and other allied military commands, additional information that is important in assessing the allies' compliance with the laws of war governing aerial bombardment. Further, the report raises questions that Middle East Watch believes should be addressed to the Pentagon and publicly discussed. 

Middle East Watch hopes that this report will be useful to members of the U.S. Congress in evaluating the two Department of Defense reports on the conduct of the Persian Gulf conflict. These documents -- the first preliminary report was released on July 16, 1991,* and the second and final report is due no later than January 15, 1992 --are to be submitted by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command, to the congressional defensecommittees, pursuant to legislation enacted in March 1991.* These reports -- which will include classified and unclassified versions -- are required to address a range of issues. The issues related to subjects in this report are:

· the use and performance of United States military equipment, weapon systems, and munitions;

· the role of the law of armed conflict in the planning and execution of military operations by U.S. and coalition forces, including collateral damage and civilian casualties;

· the rules of engagement for the coalition forces; and

· estimates of military and civilian casualties sustained by Iraq and by nations not directly participating in the hostilities in the conflict.

Middle East Watch has included material from the Pentagon's July 1991 preliminary report in this report. While we acknowledge the Pentagon's prominent caveat that the interim report contains preliminary information subject to change as additional information is received by the Defense Department, nevertheless we find -- regrettably -- that numerous questions related to the issues noted above remain unanswered.


This report uses the same methodological framework as other Human Rights Watch investigative reports on violations of the rules of war in Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Cambodia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan. As has been the case with many of these reports, Middle EastWatch was obliged to rely on testimony from those who had fled the country where the violations of the rules of war were committed. Despite repeated requests beginning February 7, 1991, MEW did not receive permission from the Iraqi government to visit the country and conduct on-site investigations of the sites of allied bomb and missile attacks. However, as this report was going to press in October, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society extended an invitation for a delegation to visit Iraq, a mission we hope to undertake in the near future. 

The interviews with former residents of Iraq and other eyewitnesses to allied bomb damage cited in this report were conducted by Middle East Watch representatives during the war in Jordan, and after the war in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Most of the interviews cited in this report were conducted in Jordan during the war by Jemera Rone, counsel to Human Rights Watch. Ms. Rone has undertaken similar field work in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America over a six-year period. 

Ms. Rone visited Jordan from February 11 to March 2, and conducted interviews with randomly selected persons who had arrived in Jordan from Iraq during the air war. Most of those interviewed were "evacuees" -- foreign workers, typically males from Africa and South Asia, who had fled Iraq after living there for at least one year and in some cases over 10 years. Pakistanis and Indians typically were employed by large construction or other companies and lived in compounds provided by their employers; others had lived among Iraqis, often in poor neighborhoods. 

The Jordanian government and international humanitarian organizations were well prepared for an exodus of refugees and evacuees far greater than what actually materialized during the war. By the time the air war started, they had readied tents, supplies and transport systems that were more than adequate for the needs of the 22,000-plus evacuees who crossed into Jordan from Iraq between January 17 and February 27.* The system of repatriation of the evacuees had become so efficientthat evacuees, after spending the night at the Ruwayshid facility near the Jordan-Iraq border, typically stayed only a few days in Azraq before being repatriated or only overnight in Aqaba before being taken by ferry to Egypt. The evacuees in many cases left Jordan within a few days and the incoming evacuees thus had no opportunity to talk to them about the contents of the interviews -- conditions which are superior for fact-finding purposes, compared to situations that usually exist in camps where refugees spend months together. 

Ms. Rone interviewed the evacuees in private, without the presence of government officials. The Jordanian authorities granted permission for Ms. Rone to travel to four sites where the evacuees were housed while awaiting transport to their countries of origin: the Ruwayshid evacuee facility, the sole Jordanian crossing point on the Iraqi border; the Azraq evacuee facility near Azraq, Jordan, 60 km east of Amman; the Andalus transit facility outside of Amman; and the Rabia evacuee facility in Aqaba. The evacuees usually remained only overnight at Ruwayshid and then moved to Azraq or, in the case of Egyptians, to Aqaba, to await transport to their countries of origin. The evening before they departed by plane, they were moved to the Andalus facility.

Ms. Rone also interviewed Jordanians and Palestinians who had returned from Iraq. A few had been in Kuwait before or during the war: some had lived in Kuwait; some went to help other Jordanians in Kuwait and Iraq pack up and move to Jordan; and others went to Iraq to provide medical assistance during the war. As it did during the 1980-88 Gulf War, Iraq barred its citizens from leaving during this conflict. With the exception of one Bedouin -- whose tent in western Iraq was bombed --interviewed by Ms. Rone at a hospital in Jordan, she met no Iraqis whohad entered Jordan since the bombing began. Ms. Rone also did not encounter in her random selection any evacuees who had come from Kuwait after the air war started. 

Ms. Rone questioned all interviewees about the day, time and place of bombing incidents that caused civilian casualties or damage; the physical details of the damage inflicted, including bomb craters; the wounded or dead persons actually seen; and the distance of the site of the damage from military or possible military targets. Distances, where they are noted in this report, were roughly calculated by the interviewees. Judging by the way the interviewees answered, they considered the questioning process to be serious and made efforts to recall the precise information that was sought. They did not have prepared stories -- much of the information had to be elicited by questioning; they also were patient with repeated requests for details, such as their meaning if they described a house as "completely destroyed." Ms. Rone asked some but not all the interviewees to provide their names, with the understanding that the names would not be published, and some volunteered their names. 


The information gathered by Middle East Watch on civilian casualties and damage in Israel from Iraq's missile attacks came from a variety of private and public sources. Andrew Whitley, the executive director of Middle East Watch and a former Israel bureau chief for the London Financial Times, conducted a fact-finding mission to Israel from June 2 to 4, 1991. He spoke with dozens of Israeli citizens who lived in the affected areas and others, such as journalists, who gathered information about Iraq's missile attacks as they occurred but have been prevented by Israeli censorship from speaking publicly. 

Mr. Whitley concentrated his field research on the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area, where the majority of missiles landed and where most civilian casualties and damage occurred. Mr. Whitley visited sites where damage had taken place, and interviewed bystanders, local residents and, where appropriate, shopkeepers and other workers. It wasexplained to them why Middle East Watch was conducting this research. Most interviewees were cooperative, volunteering information about such matters as the extent of warning they had received from air raid sirens, how much damage had been caused and whether there had been any casualties. However, it should be emphasized that the sampling was not scientific and the picture obtained from these eyewitnesses was not necessarily complete. Some respondents were suspicious about the inquiries, preferring not to talk to a foreign human rights worker without official permission. 

Official sources of information were releases from the Government of Israel Press Office, Ricochet, a published compilation of statements issued during the war by the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman, data from the Press Communications Center set up temporarily during the war, and news broadcasts on the government-controlled Israel Radio and Television networks. Maariv, a mass circulation daily newspaper, also published a useful, detailed chart of those missile attacks about which official information was disclosed. 

Middle East Watch did not undertake fact-finding in Saudi Arabia to document civilian casualties and damage there from Iraq's missile attacks during the war. The information presented on this subject has been drawn from official Saudi Press Agency reports, independent press accounts and other sources indicated in Chapter Nine.


This report also draws in part on reports filed by journalists who were based in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel during the war. Despite the control of movement by the authorities on both sides, and the clearance of dispatches by Iraqi government or U.S. military censors, Middle East Watch found the reporting of journalists in the region to be valuable to our ongoing work. We salute their efforts and persistence under extremely difficult conditions.

* U.S. Department of Defense, Conduct of the Persian Gulf Conflict/An Interim Report to Congress, July 1991 [hereinafter Pentagon Interim Report].

* Title Five (Report on the Conduct of the Persian Gulf Conflict) of the Persian Gulf Conflict Supplemental Authorization and Personnel Benefits Act of 1991, March 21, 1991.

* In the early weeks of the air war, some 5,000 to 10,000 evacuees and Jordanians were blocked by the Iraqi authorities from crossing into Jordan on the grounds that they did not have exit permits. For the most part, the evacueescould not return to Baghdad to secure the permits because they lacked gasoline and money. Moreover, the highway was very dangerous because of frequent allied air attacks. As a result of international pressure, the Iraqis relented and those stranded at the frontier without proper food or shelter and in sub-zero nighttime temperatures finally were permitted to cross into Jordan. (See David Hirst and Wafa Amr, "Refugees cross into Jordan as Baghdad reopens border," The Guardian, January 29, 1991.) The only exceptions to this apparently were Egyptians, who massed on the border until mid-February when their crossing was allowed, also without exit permits. 

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