- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

American commanders in Iraq and Syria are implementing a new battlefield tactic designed to reduce civilian casualties caused by U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State.

U.S. forces first used the tactic, known as a “knock operation,” during an airstrike against a suspected Islamic State cash house in the southern Iraqi city of Mosul on April 5th, Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, the operations chief for U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq, told reporters Monday at the Pentagon.

Before dropping the bombs that would destroy $150 million in funds and kill the group’s finance minister Hajji Iman, U.S. fighters released a small Hellfire missile timed to explode just above the targeted house, Gen. Gersten explained during a press briefing from Baghdad.

The explosion allowed the civilians, in this case a woman and child, inside the suspected Islamic State, or ISIS, cash house to flee the structure before U.S. warplanes destroyed it.

The Hellfire did not strike the house but instead “simply knocked on the roof to ensure that she and the children were out of the building,” Gen. Gersten said.

It was the first time U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria carried out a knock operation, initially developed by the Israeli military during air operations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

News of the operation comes shortly after the Pentagon admitted over 40 civilians — or double the department’s initial estimates — have been killed since U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, began two years ago.

The new casualty count came as a result of several inquiries conducted by U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, into a slate of American airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, according to recent news reports.

“There is no such thing as an intentional civilian casualty,” CENTCOM spokesman Col. Pat Ryder said, according to The Associated Press last Friday. “We are attempting to avoid civilian casualties, but in these cases, unfortunately, we assess that it was likely that civilians had died.”

“In this type of armed conflict, particularly with an enemy who hides among the civilian population, there are going to be, unfortunately, civilian casualties at times,” he added at the time.

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