U.S. Denies Strikes on ISIS Targets in Eastern Syria Led to Civilians Deaths

Published November 18th, 2018 - 02:00 GMT
Smoke covers air after an air strike in Syria. (AFP)
Smoke covers air after an air strike in Syria. (AFP)

The US-led coalition combating ISIS denied Sunday that its strikes on eastern Syria on Saturday had killed civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said coalition strikes killed 43 people, including 36 family members of ISIS fighters in the village of Abou al-Hassan.

But the coalition denied that its air raids there had killed any non-combatants.

The US envoy for the coalition, Brett McGurk on Sunday appeared to blame regime forces stationed "across the river" for the civilian casualties.

"Reports of civilian casualties attributed to coalition strikes are false. All other forces should cease uncoordinated fires from across the river immediately," he said on Twitter.

In a statement late Saturday, the coalition reported 19 coalition strikes on ISIS targets "free of civilian presence" between late Friday and Saturday afternoon in the terrorist enclave, which includes the town of Hajin.

The coalition's "initial assessment following the strikes is that there was no evidence of civilians near the strikes", it said.

But the coalition "detected a total of ten additional strikes in the same area of Hajin that did not originate from the coalition or partner forces," it added.

It called "on all other actors to cease uncoordinated fires across the Euphrates."

The Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor, said regime forces and ISIS fighters exchanged fire across the river on Saturday, but pro-regime shelling did not hit Abou al-Hassan.

The international coalition has consistently denied reports by the Observatory in recent days that its air raids have killed civilians.

It says it takes allegations of civilian casualties seriously and investigates each one thoroughly.

ISIS’ Amaq news agency quoted a medical source as saying 40 people had been killed, a claim which was also made by Syrian regime media.

Relatives of families from the area and Syrian media said dozens of people have been killed in the last two weeks from US coalition airstrikes in Hajin and areas around it.

ISIS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a so-called "caliphate" in land it controlled.

But the terror group has since lost most of it to offensives by multiple forces in both countries.

On Saturday, Syrian regime forces retook control of the group's last holdout in the country's south as ISIS retreated into the desert after months of fighting, the Observatory said.

Since 2014, the US-led coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for over 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number much higher.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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