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Dozens of women, children killed in U.S. airstrikes in Syria

By Sheetal Sukhija, New Delhi News
18 Nov 2018, 16:51 GMT+10

DAMASCUS, Syria - The U.S.-led coalition, which announced that it carried out airstrikes against the last Islamic State pocket in Syria on Saturday, is now facing allegations of killing dozens of civilians in the attack.

On Saturday, the U.S.-led coalition in Syria confirmed that it had carried out airstrikes against the militant group in the Buqan area near Hajin on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River.

However, following the airstrikes in the Syrian territory near the country's border with Iraq, several different parties alleged that the attack killed at least 43 people, including children and women.

The initial allegations were made by Islamic State militants, with the group releasing a statement on the attack through its Amaq news agency.

ISIS quoted a medical source as saying that U.S.-led airstrikes killed 40 people.

Subsequently, the Syrian state media made similar claims, stating that U.S. coalition airstrikes in Hajin and surrounding areas had caused the death of dozens of people over the last two weeks.

The Syrian state news agency SANA reiterated the government's statement from last week, citing the country's official protest lodged before the United Nations against coalition strikes.

The Syrian government protested before the UN after an anti-ISIS airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition killed 26 civilians in Hajin.

Later in the day, the Britain-based war monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released its assessment of the recent coalition airstrikes.

Head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman said in a statement that the early Saturday airstrikes hit homes in Abu al-Hassan village, near the town of Hajin.

According to Abdurrahman, the airstrikes killed at least 43 people, including 17 children and 12 women but the war monitor refrained from confirming if the men killed in the strikes were militants.

He added, "It's the highest death toll in coalition airstrikes since the SDF launched its attack against the ISIS pocket in September."

Further, Omar Abou Leila, an activist who monitors the war in Deir el-Zour from Europe, pointed out that ISIS militants holed up in the area are preventing civilians from leaving, which has resulted in the high casualty toll among innocent civilians.

While Leila confirmed Saturday's coalition airstrikes in the area, he said that it was difficult to verify the death toll.

However, the U.S.-led coalition leaders defended the latest wave of airstrikes against ISIS in the militant group's last-held pocket in the war torn country.

Commenting on the allegations, the U.S. coalition spokesperson Colonel Sean Ryan said, The coalition takes great measures to identify and strike appropriate ISIS targets in order to avoid non-combatant casualties.

Further, a report in the Associated Press quoted Col. Ryan as saying, "We have witnessed [ISIS]using places of worship and hospitals as command centres against the laws of war, and innocent civilians as human shields."

Saturday's airstrikes become the latest in the months-long anti-ISIS offensive by the U.S-led coalition and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), targeting the remote town near Syria's border with Iraq.

The coalition and its local partners have been striking the area around Abu Husn since early September, since it is believed to be the last ISIS holdout in Syria.

Since September 10, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has recorded at least 191 civilians casualties, including 65 children and 45 women.

According to the war monitor, most of the civilians killed since the coalition strikes began are said to be Iraqis and family members of ISIS militants.

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