Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dozens of civilians killed in US-led airstrike on Isis stronghold in Syria

At least 33 people killed in coalition strike on school used as refugee centre near jihadi-held town in northern province of Raqqa, says monitor
 A makeshift oil refinery in al-Mansoura in 2013. The town is held by Islamic State troops.

At least 33 people have been killed in a US-led coalition strike on a school used as a centre for displaced people near a jihadi-held town in Syria, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike south of al-Mansoura, a town held by Islamic State in the northern province of Raqqa, took place in the early hours of Tuesday.

Top officials from the 68-nation alliance fighting Isis are to meet in Washington on Wednesday to hear more about Donald Trump’s plan to destroy the jihadis’ remaining strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

The US-led coalition has been bombing Isis since 2014 and is backing a major offensive to defeat the group in Raqqa city, the Syrian heart of the group’s “Islamic caliphate”.

The school turned shelter hit on Tuesday morning lies about 20 miles (30km) west of Raqqa.

“We can now confirm that 33 people were killed, and they were displaced civilians from Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs,” said the head of the observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman.

“They’re still pulling bodies out of the rubble until now. Only two people were pulled out alive.”
The Britain-based monitor – which relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information – says it determines what planes carried out raids according to their type, location, flight patterns and the munitions involved.

“Raqqa is being slaughtered silently”, is how an activist group that publishes news from Isis-held territory in Syria reported the strike. “The school that was targeted hosts nearly 50 displaced families.”

Syrian state news agency Sana also reported the air raid, accusing the US-led coalition of inflicting dozens of casualties and almost completely destroying the school site.

Earlier this month, the coalition said its raids in Syria and Iraq had unintentionally killed at least 220 civilians. But other monitors say the number is far higher.

More than 320,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

The conflict has since evolved into a multi-front war that has facilitated the rise of jihadi groups and drawn in international powers, including the US.

The US president has ordered his generals to craft an accelerated strategy to “eradicate” Isis’s caliphate, and allied countries are keen to learn more at Wednesday’s meeting.

Coalition partners are expected to provide feedback on a revised anti-Isis plan drafted by the Pentagon and presented to Trump last month.


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