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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

US-led coalition denies deadly Syria strikes in Deir Ezzor 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 22 civilians were killed in strikes by unidentified aircraft in the Al Qusur neighbourhood

Displaced Syrians from Deir Ezzor walk at a camp for internally displaced people in Ain Issa on October 21, 2017.  Delil souleiman / AFP
Displaced Syrians from Deir Ezzor walk at a camp for internally displaced people in Ain Issa on October 21, 2017. Delil souleiman / AFP

The US-led coalition fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq denied on Tuesday it carried out air strikes that killed at least 22 people around the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said that 22 civilians were killed in strikes by unidentified aircraft in the Al Qusur neighbourhood, in the west of the city — most of which was seized from ISIL by Syrian regime forces backed by Russia.

Local officials and Syrian state television said that the coalition was behind the strikes. One local official said that 14 people were killed late Monday.

"The allegation that a coalition strike may have killed 14 civilians and wounded 32 others in Deir Ezzor is false," coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon told AFP.

"Russian-backed pro-regime forces are conducting operations in Deir Ezzor and the coalition does not support pro-regime operations.”

He said that the coalition carried out one strike on September 16 in the area in the last two months in support of US-backed forces fighting ISIL east of the city.

In September, forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar Al Assad — who are backed by Russia and fighting alongside Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hizbollah militia — seized most of Deir Ezzor city after breaking an ISIL siege of nearly three years on government-held districts.

The regime offensive against ISIL, backed by Russian air power, is being waged largely on the western side of the Euphrates river that cuts diagonally across Deir Ezzor province.

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A second, separate offensive against the extremists is being fought on the eastern side by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, made up of Arab and Kurdish fighters.

A "deconfliction" mechanism is meant to keep the two campaigns separate.

ISIL controls less than half of Deir Ezzor province, its last remaining stronghold in the country after the Syrian Democratic Forces ousted it from its bastion Raqqa last week. Raqqa was the self-proclaimed capital of ISIL’s so-called “caliphate” and where the extremists planned attacks abroad.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.