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Syrian conflict

Syria blames US planes for attack that killed at least 28 civilians

Syrian media and a human rights monitor say planes probably part of the US-led coalition bombed civilians gathered at an ice factory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 7:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2018, 7:34pm

An air strike has killed 28 civilians in one of the last holdouts of Islamic State in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, a monitor said on Friday.

The raid late on Thursday hit a “gathering of civilians” at an ice factory near the village of Al-Soussa near the Iraqi border, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It was not immediately clear whether the strike was carried out by an Iraqi plane or by one of the US-led coalition fighting IS, the monitor said.

Iraqi warplanes have recently carried out strikes against IS in eastern Syria, while coalition aircraft have been supporting Kurdish-led fighters battling the extremists.

State news agency SANA reported the strike late on Thursday, saying more than 30 civilians were killed and accusing the US-led coalition of carrying it out.

IS fighters swept across Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring a cross-border “caliphate” in areas they controlled.

They have since lost most of that territory to various offensives, but still retain pockets of land in Syria including in the country’s vast Badiya desert and in Deir Ezzor.

IS fighters have faced two separate offensives in Deir Ezzor on either side of the Euphrates River that cuts through the province.

Russia-backed Syrian forces have pushed back the extremists on the western side of the Euphrates, while the US-backed Syrian rebels have battled them to its east.

Al-Soussa lies to the east of the Euphrates River, in a pocket of territory still held by the militants.

IS fighters have been expelled from most urban centres in Syria, but analysts say they have retained their ability to pounce from the desert.

Last month, an IS incursion into the town of Albu Kamal on the west of the Euphrates left dozens of pro-government fighters dead.

Attacks spiked after the extremists were evacuated from their last bastion outside Damascus in May, many heading to the Badiya desert, the Observatory said.

IS also has a presence in the northwestern province of Idlib, as well as in the southwestern province of Daraa where it has been battling opposition fighters in recent days.

The government and rebels last week announced a ceasefire agreement as the military moves to retake control of the whole of the province, but IS is excluded from that deal.