‘US-led coalition raid’ hits Syrian army
> Russia calls emergency UN meeting after 62 soldiers killed
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