Re­port: US-led airstrikes kill 40 in IS area of Syria

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - News - BY SARAH EL DEEB

U.S-led coali­tion airstrikes on the last pocket held by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in Syria near the Iraqi bor­der killed at least 40 peo­ple, mostly women and chil­dren, a war mon­i­tor and Syr­ian state me­dia re­ported.

The coali­tion con­firmed strikes in the area but said no “civil­ian ca­su­al­ties are as­so­ci­ated” with them, re­it­er­at­ing that it takes mea­sures to avoid non­com­bat­ant ca­su­al­ties.

“We have wit­nessed (IS) us­ing places of wor­ship and hos­pi­tals as com­mand cen­ters against the laws of war, and in­no­cent civil­ians as hu­man shields,” Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the coali­tion, said in an email to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The re­mote area near the bor­der with Iraq is dif­fi­cult to ac­cess and it was not pos­si­ble to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify the re­ports.

How­ever, Rami Ab­dur­rah­man, head of the Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, said the early Sat­ur­day airstrikes hit homes in Abu al-Has­san vil­lage, near the town of Ha­jin, which lies along the bor­der with Iraq.

Ab­dur­rah­man said the airstrikes killed at least 43 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 17 chil­dren and 12 women. He said it was not im­me­di­ately clear if the men killed in the strikes were mil­i­tants.

Syr­ian state news agency SANA also re­ported the strikes, say­ing 40 were killed in the re­mote area of Buqaan, an­other vil­lage next to Abu al-Has­san, in Deir el-Zour prov­ince.

The IS-linked Aa­maq news agency also re­ported 40 killed, quot­ing a med­i­cal of­fi­cial in the Ha­jin area.

Ac­tivist Omar Abou Leila, who mon­i­tors the war in Deir el-Zour from Europe, also con­firmed the strikes but said it was dif­fi­cult to ver­ify the death toll. Abou Leila said IS mil­i­tants are pre­vent­ing civil­ians from leav­ing the area, re­sult­ing in the high ca­su­alty toll among them.

The U.S.-led coali­tion and its lo­cal part­ners on the ground, the Kur­dish­led Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, launched the cam­paign against the last IS-held pocket in early Septem­ber.

The Ob­ser­va­tory has recorded at least 191 civil­ians killed since Sept. 10, in­clud­ing 65 chil­dren and 45 women. They are mostly Iraqis and be­lieved to in­clude fam­ily mem­bers of IS mil­i­tants, the Ob­ser­va­tory added.

Speak­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press in Iraq Sat­ur­day, the coali­tion’s Deputy Com­man­der Maj. Gen. Christo­pher Ghika de­scribed the fight against IS as “dif­fi­cult.”

“We never thought or said this fight would be easy. These are some of the most de­ter­mined fight­ers and they’ve had a lot of time to pre­pare their de­fen­sive po­si­tions, so this isn’t an easy fight, and our Syr­ian demo­cratic force part­ners with coali­tion sup­port are tak­ing the fight ev­ery day to the en­emy,” Ghika said.

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