More than 40 people – including several children – have been killed in US-led airstrikes on the last Islamic State stronghold in eastern Syria, according to a war monitoring body and state media. The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Rami Abdurrahman, said homes were hit on Saturday in a village near the town of Hajin, near the Iraq border.
He said at least 43 people died, including 17 children and 12 women, and that it was not clear if the men who died were militants or not. Sana, the Syrian state news agency, also reported the strikes. It said 40 people were killed in the area.
Activist Omar Abou Leila monitors the conflict from Deir el Zour and confirmed the strikes too, but was unable to verify the death toll. However, he said IS fighters were stopping civilians from leaving the region, which resulted in the high number of civilian casualties.
The US-led coalition and its local partners – the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – says it makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties. It launched its latest campaign against the last IS pocket in September. The SOHR has recorded at least 191 civilian deaths since 10 September. They include 65 chldren and 45 women and are mostly of Iraqi origin. The organisation said the figures included family members of IS militants. Major General Christopher Ghika, the coalition’s deputy commander, said the fight against IS was “difficult”.
“We never thought or said this fight would be easy,” he said.
“These are some of the most determined fighters and they’ve had a lot of time to prepare their defensive positions, so this isn’t an easy fight, and our Syrian Democratic Force partners with coalition support are taking the fight every day to the enemy.”