The Obama administration has acknowledged that its strict policy of preventing civilian deaths does not apply to American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
The statement confirming the loosening of high standards pertaining to minimizing collateral damage comes amid reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children, were killed by a U.S. strike of a Syrian village.
U.S. officials believed that members of the Khorasan group, an al-Qaida splinter organization, were based in the village that was struck by the U.S. Air Force, resulting in civilian deaths.
Last year, President Obama issued a policy prohibiting U.S. drone strikes unless there was a "near certainty" that collateral damage will not result. The "near certainty" standard only applies "when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities'…," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Jerusalem Post.
This standard, she said, "simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."
This relaxation is fuelling allegations of double standards against the Obama administration. Throughout the summer conflict between Israel and Hamas, the White House criticized Israel's counterterrorism operations as disproportionate and harshly condemning Israel's rules of engagement.
"The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians," the Statement Department said after Israel shelled a United Nations school that was used as a Hamas terrorist base. Secretary of State John Kerry was also highly critical of the civilian death toll in Gaza.
"It's a hell of a pinpoint operation," Kerry sarcastically said to an aide, caught by an open microphone while preparing to do an interview in July.
Syrian rebel commanders briefing the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week presented evidence of innocent Syrian civilians killed by U.S. airstrikes. Pictures of injured children were also posted on YouTube, resulting in anti-American protests in some Syrian villages.
Islamist terrorists operating in Syria and Iraq are increasingly blending into the civilian population, a tactic explicitly adopted by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
The United States openly criticized Israel for its counterterrorism operations; however the U.S.-led campaign in the region is also producing collateral damage against al-Qaeda groups and the Islamic State.