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US-led coalition deny reports of Syria civilian massacre

McGurk has denied reports of a US massacre in eastern Syria [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 18 November, 2018

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The US-led international coalition has denied reports its airstrikes in eastern Syria led to the deaths of numerous civilians.
The US-led international coalition has denied reports that its airstrikes on a pocked of territory held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria led to the deaths of dozens of civilians.

Instead, it appeared to pin blame on the civilian deaths on regime forces, who are also active in eastern Syria.

It follows reports by IS and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights this weekend that coalition strikes on Saturday killed 43 people in the eastern village of Abu al-Husn.

Among the dead were 36 family members of IS fighters it was claimed, but this report had been denied by the coalition who claimed its air raids in the area had not killed any non-combatants.

Brett McGurk, the US envoy for the coalition, appeared to pin blame on  "across the river" for the civilian casualties.

"Reports of civilian casualties attributed to coalition strikes are false. All other forces should cease uncoordinated fires from across the river immediately," he said on Twitter.

The US coalition is backing a Kurdish-led alliance - known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seeking to capture the last IS territory on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.

Russian-backed regime forces are fighting IS on the west side of the river.

The coalition's "initial assessment following the strikes is that there was no evidence of civilians near the strikes", it said.

"[We] detected a total of ten additional strikes in the same area of Hajin that did not originate from the coalition or partner forces," the coalition added.

It called on "all other actors" to cease fire across the Euphrates.

Regime forces and IS fighters exchanged fire across the river on Saturday, but said shelling did not hit Abu al-Husn.

The US-led international coalition has denied other reports from the Observatory in recent weeks that its air raids have killed civilians.

Cases of civilians deaths are investigating by the coalition.

Syria's war has killed at least 500,000 people since it started in 2011 following the brutal regime repression of pro-democracy protests.

The vast majority of the deaths are believed to be civilians killed in regime air raids, which have been regular and intensive.

The US-led coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for over 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq since it intervened against IS in 2014, but rights groups put the number much higher.

SDF forces are attempting to seize the eastern pocket of Hajin from IS in September.

Its assault was briefly halted after Turkish shelling of Kurdish militia positions in northern Syria. 

An SDF commander on Saturday said his forces were slowly advancing due to "fields of landmines, trenches, tunnels and barricades set up by IS".

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