US-led coalition denies reports it killed dozens of civilians in Syria
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US-led coalition denies reports it killed dozens of civilians in Syria

Reports from Syrian state media, a war monitor and IS-linked news agency say strikes killed 40 people, mostly women and children, in Deir Ezzor

Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), trained by the US-led coalition, participate in the graduation ceremony of their first regiment in al-Kasrah, a suburb of the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor (also Deir El-Zour), on May 21, 2018. (AFP Photo/Delil Souleiman)
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), trained by the US-led coalition, participate in the graduation ceremony of their first regiment in al-Kasrah, a suburb of the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor (also Deir El-Zour), on May 21, 2018. (AFP Photo/Delil Souleiman)

BEIRUT — The US-led coalition denied reports that airstrikes it carried out in a part of eastern Syria held by the Islamic State group killed dozens of civilians, while opposition activists reported clashes Sunday between government forces and IS in nearby districts.

The coalition said late Saturday that it struck only “legitimate” jihadist targets, and that another 10 airstrikes in the area were not carried out by US-led forces.

IS controls an area in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border where some 15,000 people, including fighters and their families, live. US-backed fighters of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been trying to capture the area since September.

Syrian government forces and Iran-backed militiamen have also bombarded the IS-held area in recent weeks, according to opposition activists.

Syrian state media, a war monitor and an IS-linked news agency reported Saturday that coalition airstrikes killed 40 people, mostly women and children.

Illustrative: Smoke billows from the eastern city of Deir Ezzor during an operation by Syrian government forces against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists on November 2, 2017. (AFP/Stringer)

The coalition said in a statement late Saturday that it conducted 19 strikes in the area starting late Friday in support of ground operations against IS. It said no civilians were present near the targets it struck.

Syria and Russia regularly launch airstrikes against suspected jihadists, and Iraq has carried out cross-border strikes targeting IS.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Deir Ezzor 24, an activist collective, meanwhile reported clashes Sunday between Syrian government forces and IS in other parts of Deir el-Zour. It said government forces shelled areas controlled by IS in the same region where the US-led coalition reportedly carried out the airstrikes.

Although IS has been mostly defeated in eastern Syria, the terrorists still have hideouts in the desert from where they launch attacks.

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