‘US-led coali­tion raid’ hits Syr­ian army

> Rus­sia calls emer­gency UN meet­ing af­ter 62 sol­diers killed

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

BEIRUT: The US-led coali­tion ad­mit­ted it may have hit a Syr­ian army po­si­tion on Satur­day as Rus­sia called an emer­gency meet­ing of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to dis­cuss the air strikes it said killed at least 62 sol­diers.

The strikes came with diplo­matic ten­sions es­ca­lat­ing be­tween Moscow and Washington less than a week into a frag­ile cease­fire aimed at stop­ping the blood­shed in Syria’s five-year civil war.

US of­fi­cials said the US-led coali­tion fight­ing the Is­lamic State (IS) group may have hit Syr­ian mil­i­tary po­si­tions.

“Coali­tion forces be­lieved they were strik­ing a Daesh fight­ing po­si­tion,” a Pen­tagon state­ment said, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym for IS.

“The coali­tion air strike was halted im­me­di­ately when coali­tion of­fi­cials were in­formed by Rus­sian of­fi­cials that it was pos­si­ble the per­son­nel and ve­hi­cles tar­geted were part of the Syr­ian mil­i­tary.”

Washington said it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the in­ci­dent but dis­missed Moscow’s call for an ur­gent Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing as a “stunt”.

“If we de­ter­mine that we did in­deed strike Syr­ian mil­i­tary per­son­nel, that was not our in­ten­tion. And we of course re­gret the loss of life,” US am­bas­sador to the UN Sa­man­tha Power told jour­nal­ists as the closed-door meet­ing got un­der­way on Satur­day night.

Power de­scribed Rus­sia’s re­quest for the meet­ing as a “stunt, re­plete with moral­ism and grand­stand­ing”, say­ing Moscow should in­stead de­mand a meet­ing with the Syr­ian regime to press for peace.

Rus­sian am­bas­sador Vi­taly Churkin re­turned by ac­cus­ing the US of vi­o­lat­ing agree­ments that it would not tar­get Syr­ian po­si­tions.

The Rus­sian mil­i­tary ear­lier said the sit­u­a­tion was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, adding that the US would be re­spon­si­ble if the frag­ile cease­fire in force since last Mon­day col­lapses.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights mon­i­tor­ing group gave a toll of 83 sol­diers killed, as it con­firmed the strikes were US-led coali­tion raids.

“War­planes from the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion car­ried out four air strikes to­day against Syr­ian forces sur­rounded by IS in the Deir Ez­zor air base,” a Rus­sian army state­ment said.

“Sixty-two Syr­ian sol­diers were killed and a hun­dred oth­ers were in­jured in these strikes.”

The Rus­sian mil­i­tary said two F-16 and two A-10 jets that flew into Syr­ian airspace from neigh­bour­ing Iraq car­ried out the at­tack.

“Straight af­ter the coali­tion’s strikes, IS mil­i­tants launched an of­fen­sive,” said the state­ment, adding that “fierce fight­ing against the ter­ror­ists” en­sued nearby. – AFP

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