At least 14 civilians were killed on Saturday in US-led coalition air strikes on the Islamic State (IS) group’s last holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said.
“Fourteen civilians, including five children under the age of 18, were killed in the coalition air raids on the villages of Hajin, Sousa and Al-Shaafa” in eastern Deir Ezzor province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The death toll is likely to rise due to the number of seriously wounded,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. At least 9 IS militants were killed in the raids, he added.
According to a local report, the coalition concentrated most of the air strikes on the IS stronghold of Hajin, which is located east of the Euphrates River, the AMN website reported.
During the assault, the coalition struck a civilian neighborhood, killing at least 15 civilians inside the town, state-owned Al-Ikhbariya TV reported.
Since 2014, the US-led coalition has taken direct responsibility for more than 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups estimate the number to be much higher.
The Observatory says coalition strikes in Syria alone have killed more than 3,300 civilians.
The coalition was not immediately available for comment.
Strikes on the area intensified after an attempted militant attack on a coalition base in the nearby village of Al-Bahra, the UK-based monitor said.
US overran large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” in land it controlled.
But the group has since lost most of its territory to various offensives in both countries.
In Syria, the group has seen its presence reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the pocket in Deir Ezzor that contains Hajin, Sousa and Al-Shaafa.
A Kurdish-Arab alliance backed by the coalition launched an offensive in September to wrest the Deir Ezzor pocket from IS.
But on Wednesday the alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces, paused in its fight against the militants after Turkish forces fired on the group’s positions.
Syrian Kurdish-led forces said on Friday that US troops had started patrolling the Syrian border with Turkey to defuse tensions.
The coalition estimates that 2,000 IS militants remain in the Hajin pocket.[Source: Middle East Eye]