U.S.-led Airstrike Killed 80 Syrian Soldiers, Monitor Says

Both coalition aircraft and Russian aircraft were bombing Deir al-Zor area at the same time, Human Observatory for Human Rights says, citing source on ground as saying it was a coalition aircraft that targeted the Syrian army position. At least 80 Syrian soldiers were killed in a U.S.-led coalition air strike at an army position near Deir al-Zor airport on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group said, citing a source at the airport. Russian jets had been bombing in the same area at the same time, the Observatory said. The source at the airport said the airstrike had paved the way for Islamic State fighters to overun the position at Jebel Tharda, the Observatory said. It said earlier that only 30 soldiers had been killed, citing the same source. At the same time, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said 62 Syrian soldiers have been reported killed in the airstrike. Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the airstrike was carried out by two F-16s and two A-10s. He did not identify the planes’ country affiliation, but said they were part of the international coalition.
Konashenkov said Syrian authorities told the Russians that 62 soldiers were killed and more than 100 wounded. He said the planes came from the direction of the border with Iraq.
Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and has been carrying out airstrikes on behalf of his forces since last year.
Russia and the United States brokered a cease-fire in Syria that took effect on Monday and has largely held despite dozens of alleged violations.
Syria’s army general command accused the U.S. of paving the way for Islamic State fighters to overun the Deir al-Zor airport, saying that the airstrike was “conclusive evidence” that the U.S. and its allies support the jihadist group. The Syrian army said in a statement that the strike was “dangerous and blatant aggression”.
The U.S.-led coalition has been conducting air strikes against Islamic State since September 2014. In December Damascus accused the coalition of striking an army camp near Deir al-Zor, but Washington said it was done by Russian jets.
A strike list issued by the U.S. on Saturday said it had carried out a strike at Deir al-Zor against five Islamic State supply routes, as well as strikes near Raqqa and elsewhere in Syria.
Syria’s army controls Deir al-Zor airport and parts of the city which are otherwise entirely surrounded by territory held by Islamic State.
The United States and Russia agreed a deal on Syria last week, involving a ceasefire which came into effect on Monday, aid deliveries to besieged areas and eventual joint targeting of militant jihadist groups if the truce works out.
Syria’s five-year civil war between President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to topple him has drawn in regional and global powers and allowed militant jihadist groups including Islamic State to gain territory and inspire attacks.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/1.742524

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