Civilians bore the brunt of escalating violence in July, with preliminary UN findings showing that more than 1,500 civilians were killed and injured, the highest number of any month this year, and the highest number documented in a single month since May 2017, the UN said in a statement.
UN says the main driver in July was a sharp rise in civilian casualties caused by anti-government elements.
“As peace efforts have intensified in recent weeks so too has the conflict on the ground,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
“I call on all parties not to ramp up military operations thinking that doing so will give them a stronger position in talks about peace,” he said. “Escalating the conflict will have one primary result: greater loss of civilian life. Now is the time to demonstrate restraint and real respect for the lives of ordinary Afghan civilians.”
UNAMA documented an increase through July in the number of disproportionate and indiscriminate Taliban attacks in urban areas against Afghan military and security objects and personnel.
According to the statement, these attacks caused great harm to civilians. On 1 July, Taliban claimed an attack on an Afghan Army logistics center in Kabul killing seven civilians and injuring 144 others.
Taliban also claimed responsibility for the 18 July attack on a Kandahar police facility resulting in seven civilians killed and 72 others injured, the statement says.
In Ghazni, on 7 July, Taliban attacked a National Directorate of Security (NDS) facility resulting in 174 civilian casualties, the vast majority of whom were injured. More than 80 of the victims were children, the UN statement says.
UNAMA remains gravely concerned by the harm done to civilians from anti-government elements’ attacks involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the statement says. The use of IEDs by anti-government elements was responsible for more than 50 percent of civilian casualties in July.
The UN is particularly appalled by numerous incidents when anti-government elements have deliberately targeted civilians.
According to the UN report, Daesh claimed a 25 July suicide attack in Kabul against a Ministry of Mines and Petroleum bus and an explosion targeting first responders. Seven civilians were killed, including six women and a three-year-old boy, with 32 others injured.
On 19 July, eight civilians were killed and 36 injured when attackers focused on civilians at Kabul University. Deliberately targeting civilians or civilian objects amounts to a war crime, the UN says in the statement.
There were several high-profile attacks in July for which no party claimed responsibility, such as the 28 July complex attack that used remote-controlled and suicide IEDs against the Green Trend offices in Kabul. In this attack, which targeted the Afghan electoral process, at least 21 civilians were killed and 50 others injured, the UN statement says.
Other types of antigovernment elements-employed IEDs that caused significant loss of civilian life during July were victim-activated pressure-plate IEDs (PPIED) that are inherently indiscriminate.
The UN report says that on 15 July, 13 civilians were killed and 40 injured, mostly women and children, when a minibus ran over a PPIED near Kandahar. On 30 July, at least 24 civilians were killed and 18 more injured when a PPIED detonated against a bus on the Kandahar-Herat highway.
Meanwhile, the UN statement says that civilian casualties from operations by Pro-Government Forces (PGFs) remain at concerning levels, mainly from air and search operations, including by NDS Special Forces that are supported by International Military Forces.
In Maiden Wardak overnight from 8 to 9 July, NDS special forces entered a medical clinic and interrogated health workers.
NDS special forces shot and killed three civilian males, two of whom worked at the clinic and one of whom was accompanying a patient.
On 19 July, in Bala Murghab district, Badghis province, pro-government forces conducted an airstrike that hit a residential home and resulted in the deaths of seven civilians, including three children and one woman, with three more civilians injured, including a baby.
The UN says that parties must ensure compliance with their obligations under international law.
UNAMA urges all parties to the conflict to strengthen their engagement with the United Nations and reminds them of their responsibility to protect civilians.