BEITUT, Lebanon.- A irstrikes killed at least 23 civilians in one of the last pockets of Islamic Statecontrolled territory in Syria, according to Syrian state media and an oppositionlinked monitoring group, as U.S.-backed forces in the area announced they have resumed their campaign against the extremists.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not clear if the airstrikes in the Hassakeh province were carried out by the U.S.-led coalition or the Iraqi air force. It said the strikes killed 10 children, six women and seven elderly people. The state-run Syrian News Agency said 25 civilians were killed in the airstrikes south of the town of Shadadi, blaming the U.S-led coalition.
The strikes took place in an area where the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are battling IS. In an email to The Associated Press, the U.S-led coalition said initial reports suggest there were no coalition airstrikes in the area where the deadly airstrikes are said to have taken place.
Lelwa Abdullah, an SDF spokeswoman in the adjacent Deir el-Zour province, said Tuesday the final phase of a large operation against IS in eastern Syria has begun. She said the SDF will “liberate those areas and secure the Syrian-Iraqi border and end the IS presence in eastern Syria once and for all.”
Abdullah said IS attacks have increased in recent weeks in parts of eastern Syria near the border with Iraq as the extremist group seeks to regroup. She said the clearing operations will take place with the help of the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces across the border.
The U.S. State Department said the days of IS controlling territory in Syria “are coming to an end,” and that the renewed operations are intended to “liberate the final ISIS strongholds in Syria.” President Donald Trump has said he wants to pull out U.S. troops as soon as the extremists are defeated.
But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. will “ensure that there is a strong and lasting footprint in Syria such that ISIS cannot return.”