US-led strikes kill 56 in 'worst week' for civilian deaths in Syria

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The air strikes in village of Al-Tukhar comes a day after 21 others were killed by US-led coalition in northern Syria

Civilians fleeing the besieged town of Manbij controlled by IS (AFP)
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Wednesday 20 July 2016 12:34 UTC
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At least 56 civilians, including 11 children, have been killed by US-led coalition air strikes outside a Syrian village held by the Islamic State (IS) group, a monitoring group said. 

Dozens more civilians were injured in the strikes, including some who were in serious condition, the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. 

"Residents were fleeing the village of Al-Tukhar in Aleppo province when the strikes hit," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the strikes appeared to have been carried out in error, with the civilians being mistaken for IS fighters.

The strikes in Al-Tukhar come a day after US-led coalition air strikes killed 21 civilians in and around the northern Syrian town of Manbij, the SOHR reported.

At least 15 civilians were killed in the Hasawneh neighbourhood of the town, according to the monitoring group. 

Al-Tukhar lies 14km north of the town of Manbij, which has been besieged by Kurdish forces trying to seize it from IS with US air support. Both are in Aleppo province which has witnessed some of the worst fighting in Syria over recent months. 

On Sunday, government forces officially besieged rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo, after nearly a week of fighting over the last rebel-held road into the contested city.

Ahead of the air strike in Al-Tukhar, Airwars, a website tracking civilian deaths by the US-led coalition, said this is the "worst week" for civilian deaths in the two years since the coalition began its operation against IS. 

 

Investigative journalist Chris Woods, who founded the Airwars website, told MEE that his "entire website" was founded exclusively to highlight the discrepancy between what the US coalition and Russians say about civilian casaulties, and the reality. 

"The average delay in the coalition killing someone in the battlefield and publicly admitting it is presently six months," he said, adding the coalition needed to be "transparent and held accountable for its actions".

Monday's attack brings the total number of civilians killed by coalition airstrikes on Manbij since 31 May to 104, including 29 children and 16 women, according to SOHR. 

SOHR relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information and says it determines what planes carried out raids according to their type, location, flight patterns and the munitions involved.

Asked about both incidents, the coalition had no immediate comment, but said it was looking into the reports.

Raed Saleh, the leader of the Syrian Civil Defence Force which conducts humanitarian rescue missions in the rebel-held areas, told Middle East Eye in June that he had confronted the US-led coalition about civilian deaths in September 2014.

"Mistakes are likely to happen," Saleh said he was told at the time.

He also said that the coalition had failed to compensate the families it had accidentally killed in its air strikes. 

The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by the US, launched an offensive against to retake the city of Manbij late last month. They have besieged the town and are advancing to the city centre under the cover of air strikes by the US-led coalition.

IS has held the city since 2014, the year that the armed group seized control of large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq and declared its "caliphate".

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.