NATO bombing of Yugoslavia
Part of the Kosovo War
Нато бомбе изазивале еколошку катастрофу у Новом Саду.jpeg
The Yugoslav city of Novi Sad on fire in 1999
DateMarch 24 – June 10, 1999 (78 days)[3]
Location
Result

NATO victory[5]

  • Kumanovo Treaty initiated
  • Withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo
  • Deployment of KFOR
  • Establishment of UNMIK
  • Substantial damage to Yugoslavia's economy and infrastructure[6][7][8]
  • Return of Albanian refugees to Kosovo
  • Departure of some Serb and other non-Albanian civilians[a]
Territorial
changes
UN Resolution 1244; de facto separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia under United Nations temporary administration
Belligerents

 NATO

 Yugoslavia
Commanders and leaders

NATO Wesley Clark (SACEUR)
NATO Rupert Smith
NATO Javier Solana


United States Gen. John W. Hendrix[13]
United States James O. Ellis[14]
Slobodan Milošević
Dragoljub Ojdanić
Nebojša Pavković
Strength
NATO:
1,031+ aircraft[15][16]
30 warships & submarines[17]
United States Task Force Hawk
114,000 regulars
20,000 Yugoslav policemen
1,270 tanks
825 armoured vehicles[17]
1,400 artillery pieces
100 SAM launchers
14 modern combat aircraft[18]
Casualties and losses
3 jet fighters destroyed
2 helicopters destroyed
21 UAVs destroyed
3 jet fighters damaged
2 soldiers killed (non-combat helicopter crash)
3 soldiers captured
956–1,200 killed
5,173 wounded
52 missing
120 tanks destroyed
220 APCs destroyed
450 artillery pieces destroyed (according to NATO)
121 aircraft destroyed
Economic losses of $29.6 billion[19]

Human Rights Watch: 489–528 civilians killed (60% of whom were in Kosovo)[20]
Yugoslav government: 1,200–5,700 civilians killed[20]

China 3 Chinese citizens killed in NATO bombing of the PRC's embassy in Belgrade

The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) during the Kosovo War. The air strikes lasted from March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999. The official NATO operation code name was Operation Allied Force; the United States called it "Operation Noble Anvil",[21] while in Yugoslavia, the operation was incorrectly called "Merciful Angel" (Serbian: Милосрдни анђео / Milosrdni anđeo), as a result of a misunderstanding or mistranslation.[22] The bombings continued until an agreement was reached that led to the withdrawal of Yugoslav armed forces from Kosovo, and the establishment of United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), a UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

The bloodshed, ethnic cleansing of thousands of Albanians driving them into neighbouring countries, and the potential of it to destabilize the region provoked intervention by international organizations and agencies, such as the United Nations, NATO, and INGOs.[23][24] NATO countries attempted to gain authorisation from the United Nations Security Council for military action, but were opposed by China and Russia that indicated they would veto such a proposal. NATO launched a campaign without UN authorisation, which it described as a humanitarian intervention. The FRY described the NATO campaign as an illegal war of aggression against a sovereign country that was in violation of international law because it did not have UN Security Council support.

The bombing killed between 489 and 528 civilians, and destroyed bridges, industrial plants, public buildings, private businesses, as well as barracks and military installations. In the days after the Yugoslav army withdrew, over 164,000 Serbs (around 75%)[not in citation given] and 24,000 Roma (around 85%)[not in citation given] left Kosovo and many of the remaining civilians were victims of abuse.[by whom?][25][26][27][28][29] After Kosovo and other Yugoslav Wars, Serbia became home to the highest number of refugees and IDPs (including Kosovo Serbs) in Europe.[30][31][32]

The NATO bombing marked the second major combat operation in its history, following the 1995 NATO bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was the first time that NATO had used military force without the approval of the UN Security Council.[33]

Background

A Tomahawk cruise missile launches from the aft missile deck of the US warship USS Gonzalez on March 31, 1999
Post-strike bomb damage assessment photograph of the Kragujevac Armor and Motor Vehicle Plant Crvena Zastava, Serbia
Smoke rising in Novi Sad, Serbia after NATO bombardment in 1999

After September 1990 when the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution had been unilaterally repealed by the Socialist Republic of Serbia, Kosovo's autonomy suffered and so the region was faced with state organized oppression: from the early 1990s, Albanian language radio and television were restricted and newspapers shut down. Kosovar Albanians were fired in large numbers from public enterprises and institutions, including banks, hospitals, the post office and schools.[34] In June 1991 the University of Priština assembly and several faculty councils were dissolved and replaced by Serbs. Kosovar Albanian teachers were prevented from entering school premises for the new school year beginning in September 1991, forcing students to study at home.[34]

Later, Kosovar Albanians started an insurgency against Belgrade when the Kosovo Liberation Army was founded in 1996. Armed clashes between the two sides broke out in early 1998. A NATO-facilitated ceasefire was signed on 15 October, but both sides broke it two months later and fighting resumed. When the killing of 45 Kosovar Albanians in the Račak massacre was reported in January 1999, NATO decided that the conflict could only be settled by introducing a military peacekeeping force to forcibly restrain the two sides. After the Rambouillet Accords broke down on 23 March with Yugoslav rejection of an external peacekeeping force, NATO prepared to install the peacekeepers by force.

Goals

NATO's objectives in the Kosovo conflict were stated at the North Atlantic Council meeting held at NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 12, 1999:[35]