Middle East

US-led strikes kill 56 civilians in Syria

A man pictured in the rubble of a collapsed building following reported air strikes in Aleppo, northern Syria, on July 17, 2016 ©Thaer Mohammed (AFP/File)

Children were among at least 56 civilians killed in strikes by a US-led coalition on Tuesday near a Syrian village held by DAESH group, a monitor said.

The civilians had apparently been mistaken for jihadists and were bombed while fleeing fighting in Al-Tukhar in Aleppo province, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Elsewhere in Aleppo province, air strikes probably carried out by Russia killed 21 civilians, including six children, in the rebel-held town of Atareb, said the Observatory.

The monitor — which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information — says it determines what planes carried out raids according to their type, location, flight patterns and the munitions involved.

Asked about the Al-Tukhar strike, the US-led coalition said it had “conducted air strikes near Manbij… recently” and that it was looking into the reports alleging civilian casualties.

As with any allegation we receive, we will review any information we have about the incident… such as the proximity of the location” to coalition air strikes, it wrote in an email to AFP.

We take all measures during the targeting process to avoid or minimise civilian casualties or collateral damage and to comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict.

Al-Tukhar lies 14 kilometres (nine miles) north of the town of Manbij, a key IS stronghold that has been repeatedly targeted in raids by the US-led coalition.

On Monday, the Observatory said 21 civilians had been killed in coalition raids in the area, 15 of them in a northern district of Manbij and another six in Al-Tukhar.

Manbij sits on DAESH’s main supply route between Syria and neighbouring Turkey, and has been the target of a US-backed offensive by a Kurdish-Arab alliance of fighters since May 31.

In June, the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance broke into western districts of the town, but their advance has been slowed in the past month because of landmines planted by the jihadists and ongoing suicide attacks.

The US-led coalition said in a statement on Tuesday that SDF fighters had captured an DAESH “command centre and logistics hub” in western Manbij on Sunday.

It said the fighters had also seized “a significant amount of the city during the operation, which provided civilians the opportunity to escape”.

SDF fighters control around a quarter of Manbij, according to the Observatory.

– Clashes near Aleppo –

Elsewhere in Aleppo province, 21 civilians were killed in strikes on rebel-held Atareb, said the Observatory.

Near Aleppo, meanwhile, government forces sought to tighten their siege of rebel-held districts of the battleground second city.

The so-called multinational task force against DAESH started its controversial mission in Iraq in late 2014 after DAESH seized control over territories west and north of the country. The air campaign was later expanded to cover areas in northern Syria despite criticism from the Syrian government that the attacks violate the sovereignty of the Arab country.

However, analysts say the air strikes have failed to cripple the extremists, who are engaged in crimes against humanity in the areas under their control.

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