34 Syrian civilians reported killed in suspected US-led coalition airstrikes
The alleged attack by US-led coalition forces on the Syrian village of Al-Khan was carried out on Monday. Western sources have put the death toll at 26, but Syrian political commentator Alaa Ebrahim said the figure is likely to be even higher.
“The number of casualties are likely to be larger than 27. We have a source in a hospital in Al-Malikiyah suggesting that the number is 30 dead and 17 wounded and the number is likely to rise as there are many people who would not be taken to hospital for fear of being arrested by the Kurdish or Syrian government,” Ebrahim said.
A Syrian Army source, who asked not to be named, confirmed to RT that the area was struck. The source said no Syrian Army forces were in the area. Local sources say that 34 civilians, including women and children were killed, with a further 17 people receiving injuries.
“As a result of the strikes...10 houses were completely destroyed. According to information provided by the villagers, 34 people to be exact were killed, most of them women and children,” an RT Arabic source on the ground said after speaking with those injured in the attack.
Following the coalition’s air raid, IS managed to capture Al-Khan, the RT Arabic source confirmed, adding that jihadist fighters prevented people from fleeing the village. He described one incident in which a car packed with explosives killed a man and three of his children, tearing off one of the childrens’ mother’s legs in the process.
Jihadists “tried to prevent the exodus of residents from the village and neighboring villages under the backdrop of fierce fighting between the insurgents and the so-called Syrian democratic forces,” the source told RT. Fierce fighting followed, with the so-called moderate Syrian opposition forces finally managing to to expel IS fighters from the village.
Colonel Steve Warren told AFP that the US is investigating claims that its coalition warplanes were responsible for the dozens of civilian deaths.
"Every time we get information about the possibility of a civilian casualty incident, we always do a credibility assessment on that information," Colonel Steve Warren told AFP.
"If the information is found to be credible, we'll conduct an investigation, and we'll release the results of that investigation.”
However, Warren was unable to comment whether US-led coalition planes were active on Monday in the area around the village of Al-Khan, where the deadly strikes took place, due to what he said was “a lack of information.”
Ebrahim believes if the US-led coalition is responsible, this would prove to be a boost for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s claims that all forces against IS must unite with Damascus in order to work effectively.
“The Syrian government will try to use this incident as further proof that the US should coordinate with it in order to achieve a more active approach to eliminating ISIL from Syria and Iraq,” Ebrahim told RT.
Moscow has voiced its concern regarding reports of the civilian deaths and was also worried about US-led coalition forces conducting air strikes against Syrian government troops in Deir ez Zor on Sunday, a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry reads.
The act, which killed three Syrian Army soldiers was seen by Damascus as an “act of aggression.” On top of the fatalities, 13 personnel were injured and a number of military vehicles were destroyed when warplanes fired nine missiles at the Saeqa military camp.
The incident is the first of its kind since the coalition started to bomb Syria more than a year ago, though the US-led alliance continues to deny it carried out the airstrike.
“We’ve seen those Syrian reports but we did not conduct any strikes in that part of Deir ez Zor yesterday. So we see no evidence,” said Warren.
A US military official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that Washington is certain that Russia is responsible for the airstrike.
Ebrahim believes this airstrike against Syrian Army troops could have been undertaken as a warning to Moscow.
“Many believe this is a message not to the Syrian government, but to the Russian government to say that despite the deployment of the S-400 air defense systems in Syria – the US still gets its way in Syria and can bombard anyone it wants, including Russia’s closest ally in the group – the Syrian Army,” he said.