In an air strike allegedly intended for Islamic State on Saturday, the United States struck the Syrian regime’s military position, killing at least 62 soldiers, leaving more than 100 additional troops wounded.
The U.S. military struck the eastern region of Syria, near the Deir ez-Zor Airport, in an air assault it says was meant to target IS militants and instead unintentionally hit the Syrian troops. “The coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit,” officials said.
The Russian government alleges the U.S. intentionally bombed the regime’s location saying the U.S. was “on the boundary between criminal negligence and direct connivance with Islamic State terrorists,” suggesting the U.S. and its allies support terrorist groups.
Four airstrikes were carried out by the U.S.-led coalition, targeting the terror group surrounding the airport. The Syrian military unit was located in the airport when the bombing began, hitting them instead of ISIS. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights placed the death toll numbers at 90 with more than 120 wounded, much higher than officials earlier stated.
Activists local to Deir ez-Zor reported dozens of ISIS militants were killed as a result of the coalition air strikes on Saturday. “ISIS militants tightened their siege on the Deir ez-Zor military airport. The first airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition hit an ISIS position outside the airbase causing casualties in ISIS ranks,” media activist Muhammad Mardoud told ARA News. “We believe it was not the coalition’s intention to target the regime’s troops inside the air base.”
“This is the first time for the U.S.-led coalition to bomb a position for the regime army, but the Assad regime and Russia want to exploit the situation to oblige the western coalition to cooperate with them in the anti-ISIS campaign,” said Mardoud.
Pentagon Secretary Peter Cook released the following statement, “The coalition aircraft conducting the mission believed they were striking ISIL forces near Dayr Az Zawr. In addition, the coalition air operations center earlier in the day notified Russian officials that coalition aircraft would be operating in that area, and no concerns were voiced at that time.”
“…the coalition air operations center earlier in the day notified Russian officials that coalition aircraft would be operating in the area, and no concerns were voiced at that time…”
The U.S.-led coalition believed they were “striking a Da’esh fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike.” The air strike was stopped immediately after Russian officials told them “it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military,” U.S. Central Command officials said in a statement.
The statement went on to say this location has been “struck in the past and coalition members in the Combined Air Operations Center had earlier informed Russian counterparts of the upcoming strike.” It went on to detail that it is not “uncommon for the Coalition Air Operations Center to confer with Russian officials as a professional courtesy and to deconflict Coalition and Russian aircraft,” pointing out that this communication is “not required by the current U.S.-Russia Memorandum of Understanding on safety of flight.”
This news comes less than a week after the brokered agreement between Russia and the U.S., consisting of a cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian aid—aid that the U.S. has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of intentionally delaying. Violations of the agreement have been reported to originate from both sides of the regime and the opposition.
A United Nation’s convoy carrying essential aid is still sitting, waiting to be delivered to hard-hit regions of Syria. In an interview with CNN’s Elise Labot, Secretary of State John Kerry openly criticized Russia for supporting al-Assad who continues to block the humanitarian aid, “The regime, once again, is blocking it. So Russia’s client, Russia’s supported friend is the single biggest blockade to the ability to move forward here,” said Kerry.
“The regime, once again, is blocking it. The biggest judgment they need to make is to stop Assad from bombing people indiscriminately, which he continues to do,” said Kerry.
“So let me just say this clearly: Russia signed up to a cessation of hostilities. Assad said he would live by it. Then he needs to stop and let the joint implementation get set up so Russia and the United States can coordinate in order to avoid the kind of terrible thing that happened yesterday that we all acknowledge and regret,” Kerry said.
Kerry also pointed out that if Assad is serious about the ceasefire, then he should stop going after the opposition, but allowing Assad to continue attacking the opposition “pretending they are Nusra,” is a challenge to the effort of everyone involved.
Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in March 2011, it has been estimated that between 250,000 to 470,000 families and children have lost their lives amidst the fighting and air strikes. Millions of others have been displaced and forced to flee in pursuit of a safe haven.
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