Over 50 civilians dead as coalition strikes IS in Syria

Women walk near a damaged building in Aleppo’s Al-Saliheen district on Saturday.

Women walk near a damaged building in Aleppo’s Al-Saliheen district on Saturday.

US-led strikes targeting the Islamic State group killed at least 52 civilians in northern Syria, a monitor said Saturday, but the Pentagon said it could not confirm the report.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor also reported 10 civilian deaths in a rocket strike Saturday in the northern city of Aleppo and said 40 others suffered respiratory problems in a pre-dawn chemical attack further north in Idlib province.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that US-led coalition strikes early Friday on the village of Birmahle in Aleppo province killed 52 civilians.

He said “seven children” were among the dead but that the toll could rise as 13 people were still trapped under rubble.

Kurdish militiamen and Syrian rebel fighters were clashing with IS rebels in a town roughly two kilometers (1 mile) away from Birmahle at the time of the strikes.

“Not a single IS fighter” was killed in the strikes on Birmahle, said Abdel Rahman, adding that the village is inhabited by civilians only and that IS has no positions there.

US Central Command spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder told AFP there was “no information to corroborate allegations that coalition air strikes resulted in civilian casualties.”

“Regardless, we take all allegations seriously and will look into them further,” he added.

Air strikes by the international coalition have supported Kurdish militias fighting IS in Aleppo province, most notably in the flashpoint border town of Kobani, which is near Birmahle.

Backed by the strikes, Kurdish fighters drove militants out of Kobani in January.

A statement released on Friday by the coalition’s joint task force said it had conducted six air strikes near Kobani on IS tactical units.

Prior to Friday’s strikes, the coalition’s raids had killed 66 civilians since it began attacking IS positions in Syria in September 2014.

According to the Britain-based Observatory, the air campaign has killed more than 2,000 people in total, including at least 1,922 IS fighters.

In Aleppo, at least 10 civilians, including three children, were killed in rebel rocket attacks Saturday on regime-controlled parts of the divided city.

Dozens were seriously, said Abdel Rahman who expected the death toll to rise.

Syrian state television blamed “terrorists” for the rocket attacks, which it said killed 12 people and wounded 45.

The attacks came despite the death Friday night of a rebel commander known for launching rockets and mortar rounds on regime-held parts of Aleppo.

Abdel Rahman said that Khaled Hayyani was killed by pro-regime snipers, and described him as a “dangerous man who was responsible for over 550 deaths, including 130 children, in 2014.”

Also on Saturday, at least 40 civilians, including children, suffered respiratory problems in “chlorine gas attacks” on two rebel-held villages in northwestern Idlib province, the Observatory said.

The monitor said regime forces dropped barrel bombs filled with chlorine — a toxic agent that can be considered a chemical weapon — on Saraqeb and Nairab causing the deaths.

A video posted by activists online showed paramedics splashing a toddler with water, while other children — some coughing — breathed through gas masks.


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