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Anti-IS air strikes by US-led coalition 'kill dozens of civilians in eastern Syria'

Seventeen children among Islamic State family members killed in the village of Abu Husn, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
The coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for over 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq since 2014, but rights groups put the number of killed much higher (AFP)

Air strikes by the US-led coalition have killed 43 people, mostly civilians, in a holdout of the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria, a UK-based activist group has said.

Seventeen children were among 36 IS family members killed in the village of Abu Husn in the Deir Ezzor province near the Iraqi border, the Uk-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

Another seven victims had not yet been identified as either civilians or IS fighters, it said.

The US-led coalition has been backing a Kurdish-Arab alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting to expel IS from the pocket around Abu Husn.

"It's the highest death toll in coalition air strikes since the SDF launched its attack against the IS pocket" in September, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The coalition has repeatedly said it does its utmost to prevent civilian casualties.

The coalition has since 2014 acknowledged direct responsibility for more than 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number of killed much higher.

"The avoidance of civilian casualties is our highest priority when conducting strikes against legitimate military targets with precision munitions," spokesman Sean Ryan told the AFP news agency earlier this week.

IS overran large areas of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a "caliphate" in land it controlled.

The group has since lost most of it to various offensives in both countries.

In Syria, the group has seen its presence reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the pocket in Deir Ezzor. 

Syrian government forces also on Saturday took back control of the Islamic State group's last holdout in southern Syria after months of fighting, according to teh SOHR.

Government forces retook Tulul al-Safa, between the provinces of Damascus and Sweida, "after IS fighters withdrew from it and headed east into the Badia desert," according to the observatory.