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Apparent US-Led Airstrike Kills 26 Syrian Civilians

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft fly after receiving fuel from an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over Iraq. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel, USAF)

Two U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft fly after receiving fuel from an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over Iraq. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel, USAF)

A monitoring group reports at least 26 civilians, including numerous children, have been killed in a suspected American or US-led coalition airstrike targeting Islamic State (IS) militants in northeastern Syria.

BBC reports the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says the strike occurred on Monday in the village of al-Khan, near al-Hawl, in Hasakah province.

The Guardian reports the dead include at least seven women and four children, according to Rami Abdel Rahman of SOHR. Rahman said the death toll was likely to rise, as more than a dozen civilians are missing under the rubble. He also said that IS fighters control the outskirts of al-Khan, “which is why all of the deaths were civilians.”

A US Central Command spokesman said the military is investigating the strike.

“We take all such allegations seriously and conduct credibility assessments of all information we receive regarding civilian casualties. If the information is deemed credible we will investigate and publicly release the results of the investigation,” the spokesman said.

Despite American claims that great care is taken to avoid civilian casualties, there have been numerous incidents of coalition warplanes killing and wounding innocent people in Syria and Iraq. Among the deadliest reported US-led airstrikes to have occurred over the course of the yearlong coalition air campaign against IS were a December 28 attack in Al Bab, northwest of Aleppo, that killed at least 50 civilians, including at least seven children, a series of July strikes that killed at least 30 people in Syria and Iraq and an April 30 strike in Bir Mahli, Aleppo province, that left 64 civilians, including 31 children, dead.

Russia, a staunch ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, has also been bombing IS—and other—rebel positions since September 30, and has been accused of killing many innocent men, women and children. Last month, SOHR reported more than 400 civilians, including 97 children, have died in Russian airstrikes.

SOHR says 320,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in March 2011. More than 108,000 civilians, including more than 11,400 children and 7,300 women, are among the dead. In addition to those killed, the United Nations says 1 million more Syrians have been wounded, some 7.6 million have been displaced and more than 3.3 million people are now refugees.

While the number of innocent civilians killed by coalition airstrikes represents a tiny fraction of the overall death toll in Syria, a recent study published by the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War concluded the US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have killed more than 1.3 million people since October 2001, when the Bush administration launched a global US war against terrorism in response to the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, DC.

Since the end of World War II, US military forces have killed more innocent foreign civilians than any other power on earth.

Monday’s deadly strike came on the same the Syrian government accused the United States of bombing one of its military bases in Deir al-Zour Province, an attack which left three regime troops dead. The Assad regime condemned what it called “a heinous aggression by the coalition.”

While US officials said the coalition carried out airstrikes targeting IS oil facilities some 35 miles (56 km) from the Syrian base, they denied targeting or bombing any of Assad’s forces.

“We did not strike any vehicles or personnel targets in this area,” a statement from the US-led Combined Joint Task Force read. “We have no indication any Syrian soldiers were even near our strikes.”

Senior US officials have accused Russian warplanes of carrying out the deadly attack.

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