Airstrike kills 54 in Syria, US-led coalition hints at responsibility

Fifty four persons, among them ISIS militants, and 28 civilians have been reportedly killed in the air strike. (File photo: AFP)

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS has announced that the “allied forces” launched an airstrike on Thursday in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, which led to the death of dozens of people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. The Syrian monitor reported that 54 persons, among them ISIS militants, and 28 civilians have been killed in the air strike.

Replying to Reuters request regarding this report, the spokesman for the US-led coalition Colonel Sean Rayan said: “probably the coalition or allied forces have launched strikes on the surrounding of al-Soussa and al-Baghouz Fawqani yesterday”. He added that a report about civilian casualties have been prepared to be looked into by a “follow up unit on civilian casualties in order to assess the situation” adding “we do not have any further details right now.”

Al-Soussa lies to the east of the Euphrates River, in a pocket of territory still held by the extremists. Iraqi warplanes have recently carried out strikes against ISIS in eastern Syria, while coalition aircraft have been supporting Kurdish-led fighters battling the extremists.

State news agency SANA reported the strike late Thursday, saying more than 30 civilians were killed and accusing the US-led coalition of carrying it out. ISIS fighters swept across Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring a cross-border “caliphate” in areas they controlled.

They have since lost most of that territory to various offensives, but still retain pockets of land in Syria including in the country’s vast Badiya desert and in Deir Ezzor. ISIS fighters have faced two separate offensives in Deir Ezzor on either side of the Euphrates River that cuts through the province.

Russia-backed regime forces have pushed back the militants on the western side of the Euphrates, while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance has battled them to its east.

Last month, an ISIS incursion into the town of Albu Kamal on the west of the Euphrates left dozens of pro-regime fighters dead. Attacks spiked after the extremists were evacuated from their last bastion outside Damascus in May, many heading to the Badiya desert, the Observatory said.

ISIS also has a presence in the northwestern province of Idlib, as well as in the southwestern province of Daraa where it has been battling opposition fighters in recent days.

The government and rebels last week announced a ceasefire agreement as the regime moves to retake control of the whole of the province, but ISIS is excluded from that deal. The extremists hold a corner of territory in Daraa on the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Overnight Wednesday-Thursday, they seized the nearby village of Heet from rebels who had agreed to hand over their heavy weapons to the regime after deadly clashes.

(with AFP)

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:03 - GMT 11:03
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